Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: Laughter Through Pain

By Michael Block 

I was taught as a child when you hurt yourself to laugh it off. And I won't lie, sometimes when I see someone else's misfortune, I laugh. On the inside. Mostly. Schadenfreude as they say. This idea is the basic premise of Dan Rider's incredibly smart play, Thud. Set in a room at a hospital, a young girl laughs at a clumsy clown as a means together about her pain, finding joy in another's physical suffering. But when the pain she infects gets emotional and mental, the script is flipped. Thud is wonderfully funny and absurdly real. Rider has written a smart story that doesn't poise itself as such. It thrives at being simply itself. The reason it works so well is we have experienced both sides. We have felt pain and suffering. And we've watched others going through it. As good as Thud is, Rider brings in a lot of repetition into the fold that could be removed to make it a single act play. As it stands now, the play could conceivably end when Act I does.
photo by Emma Dolhai
The world of Thud lives somewhere within absurdist realism. With that, Rider and director Holly Kristina Goldstein were able to incorporate some exceptional live Foley work, performed by the scribe himself. It was such a smart and unique choice that elevated an already great piece. The name of the game for director Goldstein was uniting the drastically different characters of Morley and Tad. And she did just that. With physical comedy essential for the story, she allowed the staging and magic to come freely. The set by Hannah Cook was minimal. With merely a hospital bed and a hanging window, the room was present.
When one of your characters is a clown, you better have a damn good physical performer. Harrison Scott was just that. Scott is a physical comedy genius. If you didn't have at least aw moment during his performance, you likely lack a heart. Opposite Scott was Goldie Flavelle as Morley, the pained young girl. Flavelle found variance in her constant angst. Though Tad and Morley were the focal point, Alexandria Churchwell as Jen did a fine job being more than a device.
If you want to beat the heat, the Thud kids will give you a makeshift hand fan. If you can bear that, a journey to see Thud is well worth it.