by Lynn on May 16, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont. Produced by Parlous Theatre. Playing until May 19. 2024.

Written and directed by Kendelle Parks and Jacob Willis

Production designer, Irene Ly

Lighting by Mathilda Kane

Sound by Christopher-Elizabeth

Cast: Ella Berger

Kole Durnford

Margot Greve

Atlin Ofer

Nicole Kleiman

Inserted Clown: Courtenay Stevens

Accomplished and wonderfully silly.

Kendelle Parks and Jacob Willis, the founders, movers and shakers of Parlous Theatre have written a sweet, rather esoteric ‘Creators’ Note’ explaining their show, the reason for it, the kind of metaphor of it. All well and good. What needs to be known, is that Insert Clown Here is a lively, seat-of-the-pants show with an established cast that has rehearsed a story about a Victorian family of a Grandfather (Atlin Hofer), Mother Margot Greve), Daughter (Ella Berger) and Son (Kole Durnford) with designs on a rich Baron. Apparently both the Daughter and Son have written extensively and passionately to the Baron. Who knows, perhaps secretly even the Mother and Grandfather. There is also a Butler (Nicole Kleiman) who oversees everything with a raised eyebrow and a mystery arrival other than the Clown.

The problem is that the actor playing the Baron has never shown up for rehearsal! And the actor is also missing in action for this performance!!! What to do? Well the word went out and a Clown was engaged and inserted into the action, albeit without one second of rehearsal, or even a note or two on how to dress for this Victorian adventure.

The Clown inserted for the performance I attended was Courtenay Stevens. There is a different Clown for every performance. Courtenay Stevens is not ‘just’ a Clown, he is an accomplished actor, creator, improvisor and wood-working wizard, but that’s another story. He is not just funny, he is formidable.

Not to give too much away, while the family is in formal Victorian garb, Courtenay Stevens’ Clown arrives wearing clothes that have nothing to do with the Victorian era—I don’t think baseball caps were invented then, or high-top sneakers. Red socks, yes. I won’t go into the other clothes.

Courtenay Stevens’ uses a smiling charm to assess the situation and carefully, artfully replies to any and all challenges. His retorts are not smarmy or showoffy. But they are hilarious and play into the oddness of the situations and his position there—an outsider inserted into the action.

The general structure of the show would be established by writers/directors Kendelle Parks and Jacob Willis. They have a light, serious, funny touch. What they do with the inserted Clown is one of those wonderful secrets of Theatre/Clown/Improv/and esoteric musings.

There are situations that are physically ridiculous and very funny because the accomplished cast also know how to improvise and ‘clown’. The beauty of improve and clowning for the audience is when the cast crack up too—and try to suppress it. Artists appreciating artists. Lovely.

Insert Clown Here plays at the theatre Centre until May 19 with a different clown each performance. Enjoy.

Parlous Theatre presents:

Plays until May 19.

Running time: 65-75 minutes (no Intermission)

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