Review: That Beautiful Laugh at La Mama

This is Alan Tudyk:


If you know of him, it's probably because you are the type of person who has seen everything in Joss Whedon's oeuvre, or at least his failed television shows Firefly or Dollhouse.  Or maybe you caught him in Spamalot when he filled in for Hank Azaria and the audience never noticed the difference, which is a pretty tall order.  The point is, this actor is the reason I (and clearly other audience members at the performance I was at) went to La Mama to see That Beautiful Laugh this weekend.  And he's totally the wrong reason to go, because this hilarious play should be the real draw.

That Beautiful Laugh is a clown show of the level I haven't seen since Bill Irwin took over The Signature Theatre Company for a season.  The show is billed as a "outrageously high-energy, rhythmically-driven comedy piece that features clowning, live music and joy", which sounds like horribly generic marketing-speak, and yet it's pretty accurate.  Laugh opens up on Tudyk giving a speech that devolves into a listing of different kinds of laughs ("belly laughs... Santa Claus laughs") and quickly brings in the adorable and charming Julia Ogilvie, and the circus-trained Carlton Ward before all three force each other into acknowledging the audience's presence, as well as that of a small egg waiting to hatch.  The rest of the hour is spent as a cross between absolute weirdness and seemingly-improvised comedy as they introduce laughter to a small, ill-fated egg waiting to hatch.  

"That Beautiful Laugh" seems like it was written by a five-year old (and the idea supposedly was), which may be why it's filled with ridiculous dances on stilts, shadow puppets of a child's notion of a "scary city", silly songs, and the sort of stuff that stuff that make you smile like, well, a 5-year-old.  All three performers are fantastic and hilarious; Tudyk realizing in absolute fear that he has to talk to the audience is one of those moments that imprints upon your brain, and Ogilivie channels the preciousness of a child as she remain's the show's warmest center.  But Carlton Ward may actually be the standout of the three; a running gag throughout the show centers around one clown doing a trick as the other two sing a wordless song to introduce him or her, and Ward's insistence on doing tricks that are "dahngerusss" provoke some of the most amazing, cringe-worthy and hilarious parts of the show.  

That Beautiful Laugh has one more weekend left of performances (3/22-3/24 @10pm and 3/25 @ 5:30pm).  If you appreciate good clowning, or if clowning to you means terrible circus mimes with red noses, $18 is more than worth walking out with a huge smile on your face.



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