Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fringe Review: Happy Sauce & The Sad Carousel Double Review

By Robert Subiaga

The word “sophomoric.” You say that like it’s a necessarily bad thing? Saturday Night Live and MadTV have made an institution out of it. And if you really think back to all your friends in high school and college, at all those parties, improv-ing all sorts of silliness--yes, you may look back with a groan, but odds are you split your sides laughing at the time. Weren’t those laughs worth it?

Two shows in one day, both sophomoric. And no, I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing.

Neither The Sad Carousel nor Happy Sauce has a joke in it that anyone would label profound, and the sketches that’ll make you laugh out loud are sometimes a little groan-worthy, though they work to hold the laughing parts together in a way that I see no way to improve--or need to. The laughs meanwhile (which can be especially gut-busting in Happy Sauce) are worth it.

Oh, the jokes might be politically incorrect, particularly in A Sad Carousel, but given those jokes are by a B-level insult comic it’s perfectly keeping in character; this is both a homage to insult comedy and a parody of it.

The Sad Carousel

As well as both an homage to and parody of the Fringe. Keep in mind that the Fringe is representative of the full range of performance, from standard plays to poetry or storytelling to dance and beyond. What makes the comedians of Pommelhorse in A Sad Carousel most effective is a very judicious use of breaking the fourth wall, as well as exceptional performances of what otherwise might be pedestrian characters. Sam Landman is perfectly cast and costumed as Herschel, and Peter Ooley in multiple roles works wonders. But the most standout performances are Matthew Glover in an understated role as Herschel’s nebbish nephew, and Lindsey McDonald Dorsey as the bimbo with a heart of gold, who exudes tremendous sex appeal with spot-on movement and stance.

Happy Sauce is the even more “sophomoric” of the two. Again, not a bad thing. Whether it’s Ben Gansky as Felix flipping out with messianic revelations after tasting the sauce; Eric Powell Holm beaming with pollyanish enthusiasm for the recipe or the girl he loves; Maren Searle (also being an unusually sexy love interest) suddenly stirring up the denouement to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing;” Joshua Fazelli as Mr. Turtle expounding on his self-made used-car-salesman venture capital philosophy, or Ben Lewis as Tommy Bottles just being, well, an exaggerated douche-lord of a friend; these are parts and performances a million people--including you--could probably pull off for their friends. And you know what? You’d laugh just as hard.

Happy Sauce

The difference is they put in the work to give it to you in an organized way. Look at all the cast members SNL has had over the years, does the fact that many people can pull similar things off make it any less funny? Maybe all it takes is somebody to dare to do it, and to organize and compile them into a whole performance. (Without overextending themselves. Skits, especially live skits, even 45-minute compilations of live skits--good. Feature films ranging around “real“ world sets? Not so much.)

I appreciate that. The stress relief of good laughs, no matter how lowbrow, can’t be faked. The human interaction with real performers doing it can’t be faked in a movie house, no matter how good the 3D.

You know, come to think of it I loved my sophomore year. Bet you did too.

A Strange Carousel has two more shows on the fringe schedule. Saturday, August 14th at 1pm and Sunday, August 15th at 5:30pm at the U of M's Rarig Center Arena. For more info and to purchase tickets click HERE.

Happy Sauce has one more performance on the Fringe schedule. Saturday, August 14th at 10pm at U of M's Rarig Center Arena. For more info and to purchase tickets click

No comments: