The Roast Beef Situation
Erin Rollman, Erik Edborg, Brian Colonna, Hannah Duggan and Evan Weissman
The creativity involved in the conception and execution of Buntport Theatre’s new show, “The Roast Beef Situation,” is inventive genius par excellence. This is no surprise since it has been conceived, directed and acted by some of the brightest comic lights in this theatre community. They are: Erin Rollman, Erik Edborg,Brian Colonna, Hannah Duggan, and Evan Weissman. It is an honor to get to see the works with which these artists are blazing trails of comedy and dram-edy here and now in Denver.
This latest in a series of comic plays gives censorship a well-deserved comeuppance! And that is why you should go. This piece makes us see how actors and clowns who survive on their audience’s sometimes-fickle good will are often the victims of laws such as the one that caused Carlo Delpini to be thrown into an English jail in July of 1787. Delpini broke the law that forbade unlicensed theatres to use dialogue that was unaccompanied by music. In a moment of weakness he spoke the words “Roast Beef” rather than sang them.
Censorship has been with us always. This was true at the time of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The deposition scene in Shakespeare’s “Richard II” caused more than a little eye rolling and Christopher Marlowe’s work came under the scrutiny of Elizabeth I’s Star Chamber for many reasons. Marlowe barely escaped experiencing its secret brutality first hand.
At that time theatres were closed by Puritans, and actors blamed for lewdness. (In all honesty one must say that only occasionally were actors to blame for such things.) For the most part the closing of theatres was due to ecclesiastical sanctimony, political power mongering and public alarm resulting in mob panic. Many times these maledictions came about because of the much feared and widespread epidemics. Whether it was the resurgence of the Plague, which was feared by everyone or some other societal scourge feared by those in power such as a political uprising of one kind or another, the afflicted community many times blamed it upon the theatre.
The Commedia del’Arte and its presentation is- whether this reviewer is its greatest fan or not - magnificently put forth. In this show the renowned Buntport humor, which so deftly demolishes funny bones, takes a back seat to historical research regarding the persecution of actors and the satirical evisceration of those ne’er do wells who hurt the theatre by living by the letter of ridiculous and nonsensical laws.
Commedia del Arte is this company’s style of choice in producing this new work. It’s a valid choice and those who find an endless stream of pratfalls and baguette whippings, accompanied by repetitive clangs and whistles palatable will find this aspect of the proceedings delightful. This reviewer has nearly always found the initiation of such theatrical expressions enjoyable. However… after the hundredth repetition thereof he tends to find them tedious.
That said, one may find exceptional work in the muggings, sly transitions of hairpieces to beard and moustache and many other sly subtleties in the theatricality of the very correct stylistic presentation of this play. The costuming and makeup of the actors in their portrayal of these eighteenth century thespians is superb and indelible. It puts one in mind of the costuming and also the depiction of the facial landscape in films by Federico Fellini such as “I Clowns”, “Casanova” and “Fellini/Satyricon.”
SamAnTha Schmitz’s lighting design plays games with the viewer’s subjective and objective points of view. The shifts in her lighting design make one feel as though he were viewing an actual moment in theatrical history one moment and pulled back into a modern theatrical depiction thereof the next. “The Roast Beef Situation” is a blood-rare and gently mooing serving of existential theatrical Truth.