Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
“Past is Prologue” becomes a working theme in this outstanding and zany production originally from Sacred Fools Theater Company, Los Angeles. “Absolutely Filthy” is a Valentine gift to the Eighteenth Annual New York International Fringe Festival, as well as a kiss from the Little Red Haired Girl, for the action takes place on Feb. 14, 2013.
This play is a colossal comedic success spiked with an imaginative concept, endless wit, and razor sharp pacing. Inspired by the comic strip Peanuts, all the kids have now grown to adulthood, and are reunited for a bleak occasion–Charlie Brown’s funeral.
Like most reunions, the group shows up, symbolically staggering in from the mishaps, struggles, and ironies of life: Sally Brown, Schroeder, Linus, Lucy van Pelt, Peppermint Patty, Marcia, Franklin, and most importantly Pig Pen, who uninvited, inadvertently appears as a dirty bum in front of the church to the chagrin of the others, together with his homeless stench and muttering, psychological inferno. But as we soon see, all the gang has their own private bête noires in this astute parody of their lives.
As Walt Disney said in a softer context, ” that’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” Schroeder is a compromised pop star, Lucy has become a major B executive type, Marcia, a self-inflicted blind person/Opthamologist; Peppermint Patty, a vain fashionista from Paris; Linus, suffering with PTSD from military duty; and Fredrick, a circuit court judge with a drinking problem. Yes, the kids from the comics have lost a bit of their Sunday morning primary colors.
Pig Pen becomes the unlikely source from which all the cathartic action proceeds. For something has been sick and slightly off-balance all these years, and as this brilliant, subversive play unfolds, Pig Pen alone in his social, solitary confinement becomes the most reliable, although crazed, point of view obliquely revealing the finer nuances of the group’s collective past.
As the outcast, grimey and disheveled, Pig Pen has fulfilled his destiny; he has finally embodied his childhood nickname, psychologically buying into his parental moniker as a real identity, all the while shielding himself in his own private galaxy with his ever-present Hula Hoop.
Brendan Hunt, playwright and actor portraying The Mess is wonderful. His writing is always engaging, wry and portentous, eliciting bundles of laughs. Also, his uncanny ability to gyrate with the hoop while simultaneously acting his layered role with conviction, is well worth the ten pounds of hard work and determination he burns. Mr. Hunt lives his role with an unpredictable certitude, and never for a minute looses momentum. And even though the one joke theme runs the danger of thinning out towards the end, another motif quickly emerges keeping the proceedings thoroughly engaging. Thumbs up to director Jeremy Aldridge for keeping a perfect lyrical flow.
KJ Middlebrooks as Franklin was totally believable, and had great timing in his acting. Shannon Nelson, as Charlie Brown’s sister also gave a spot on solid portrayal. Robbie Winston as Linus was a charming, empathetic character and played with smooth energy.
And we all know in the theatre, dying is easy, comedy hard!
Light comes from many places in this well conceived show. Even Snoopy shows up to pay his last respects. What a dog, speaks German! (Played admirably, and well groomed, by Rachel Germaine in a dual roles, also as Peppermint Patty). And the ensemble was always electric, as they worked on the modest proscenium stage. No matter! Scene after scene the audience was entertained by confident, well placed performances, while time becomes magically compressed. As you can plainly see, I highly recommend this play. You’re assured of a good, soulful time, guaranteed. But please, leave the kids home.
In the end, Absolutely Filthy is a story about love, guilt, and missed opportunities. But a million other things too, as so much is packed into each character’s orbit. We care about The Mess mostly though, because as the anti-hero, he sees with a special vision that appears very sane, as someone who has made a bad decision and paid dearly, but who may still get his cuts at bat. He embodies the quote by RD Laing on the larger game:
“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”
By Brendan Hunt
Directed by Jeremy Aldridge
Starring: Jaime Andrews, Curt Bonnem, Anna Douglas, Rachel Germaine, Brendan Hunt, K.J. Middlebrooks, Shannon Nelson, Kiff Scholl, Robbie Winston
Photos: Shaela Cook