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Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Skit and dance show unique and hilarious

It takes an entire year for the Equilibrium Theater Company and Buen Viaje Dance Company to prepare their show, so you’d figure it ought to be good.

You’d be right.

The show this year is called “North Fourth Night Live! and BVD Does Broadway.” It runs about an hour, the first half with Equilibrium doing a series of skits, and the second half with Buen Viaje’s dance pieces.

The performers are not the ones you’ll find in most theater: every one of them has a disability or genetic disorder with varying levels of severity, most of which I’m sure I don’t know the names for. Their website is rather coy about the whole thing; the Equilibrium appears to have been doing community outreach for some 13-odd years, Buen Viaje for 30.

At first you’re not going to be sure whether you should laugh, or whether it’s okay to laugh. That being said, almost immediately it became clear that this was comedy – and great damn comedy at that.

This isn’t about pity. It isn’t about derision. It’s not even about some politically correct placating encouragement.

Time and time again, I talk about passion in art; love as paramount in expression. Expertise, tech, budget or anything else is ultimately secondary. What matters is if you love it. That’s something you can’t fake.

Also, it’s just funny. Really, really damn funny.

There’s an old joke about the first rule of comedy being timing. Here, the comedic timing was so fantastically odd, everything was shifted just enough to be constantly surprising.

This was like watching theatre of the absurd in the best possible way.

Plus, I mean, they’re all so damn happy. There’s not an ounce of pretension or cynicism in the entire production.

Andie Rigler and Bruce Holmes assign the performers with physical support, all with having small parts themselves, and they’re brilliant at not upstaging the performers.

Artistic Director Kate Costello is there, too, to help and lead with clear compassion and calm.

There’s nothing like this show in town, and not because there aren’t any productions populated with people with disabilities.

There’s nothing in town quite so genuine, hilarious and utterly fascinating. You never know what you’re going to see next, or even how it’s going to be delivered. Every possible second is engrossing. I was absolutely at the edge of my seat.

The Equilibrium half was essentially a variety show, written by the company and Peter Diseth. I probably laughed the most during “The Interview,” which had Mark Jones doing celebrity impressions and Cindy Brannan playing ‘straight man,’ trying to guess what each one was.

In “Mike Gets a Jacket,” Drew Blanton is our stalwart hero, aspiring for greatness as well as a very cool jacket. Ryan Ruiz was a consistent favorite, appearing as a raucous rock and roller, then, later, as a horse.

Drake Russel, Sebastian Kline and Adam Smith join for an outstanding rendition of the Marty Robbins cowboy standard “El Paso.”

Esmeralda Cernius and Adam Smith perform as a nervous couple on a date, in his performance of Phil With, an awesome and surreally intrusive waiter.

The Buen Viaje dances were fascinating and lovely, including a 17-person performance to “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast,” followed by Eddie Lucero’s killer solo to “Mr. Cellophane” from “Chicago.” Lucero is one slick cat.

April Steele performed to “Little Girls” from “Annie” with poise and adorable humor.

So go see it. Not to laugh out of obligation or because you can only see this once a year – which ought to be reason enough – but because I can hardly think of a better way to spend one hour of your time.

Graham Gentz is a play reviewer and columnist for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com.