500 Clown Frankenstein | Comedy Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

500 Clown Frankenstein 

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Sometimes I wish the folks in 500 Clown were less in love with what Justin Hayford has called "harrowing physical comedy," usually built around some terrifying set piece. In 500 Clown Macbeth it was a shaky scaffold, and in 500 Clown Frankenstein it's a huge, rickety laboratory table. The three-member troupe is so in love with terrifying gags that it risks injury: last weekend an understudy, Chad Southard, had to go on for Paul Kalina, who'd hurt his leg during rehearsals. Audiences might be better able to appreciate the group's subtle humor without death-defying feats. For instance, the three members build allegorical political games into their shows. In 500 Clown Macbeth the actors competed in a nonstop game of king of the hill, with the winner getting to play Macbeth. In Frankenstein there's a battle between Adrian Danzig, playing Victor Frankenstein, and Molly Brennan, playing both Mary Shelley and Frankenstein's hapless fiancee, over whose story it is. The group also pays careful attention to detail. Consider the menstrual blood on Brennan's stereotypically delicate 19th-century skirt: it's a gross-out gag, sure, but it also underscores one of Shelley's themes--Frankenstein's fear of female fertility and his yearning to create life without a woman. This piece premiered at last year's PAC/edge festival and was remounted during the Rhino fest last fall, when the performers also showed what apt improvisers they are: the boyishly handsome Kalina was playing Frankenstein's monster, and a group of rowdy young women did everything they could to get his attention, including tossing their panties onstage. Brennan, Danzig, and Kalina took it all in stride, easily incorporating the girls' behavior and using it to further the story. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-722-5463. Through April 4: Fridays, 7:30 PM; Saturdays, 10 PM; Sundays, 3:30 PM. $15.

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