Monday, November 7, 2011

'BUMP' adds note of optimism to savagely funny play

The Kansas City Star

Updated: 2011-11-06T05:41:33Z

Of all the alternative performance spaces in Kansas City, only the Fishtank Performance Studio offers theatergoers something like an Off-Off Broadway experience. Make that Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway.

Shows at the Fishtank, which has a seating capacity of about 50 and a virtually nonexistent backstage area, tend to be about the material and the actors — as opposed to dazzling visual effects.

The current production, “Bump,” is an irreverent follow-up to last year’s acerbic “White Nose Christmas: A Tabloid of Rehab and Rebirth.” Written and performed by Heidi Van, Bess Wallerstein and David Wayne Reed, that show depicted the fall from grace of Brindsay Kardilton, a “celebutante” for whom self-regard is as natural as breathing.

In “Bump,” Brindsay has been released from jail, although she must complete her community service by swabbing the floors and sterilizing surgical instruments at the city morgue. The joke is that Brindsay has emerged from jail an expectant mother, although the father is unknown and the circumstances of her impregnation are unknown.

Van, who is pregnant in real life, again plays Brindsay, and although this show is plenty irreverent, this time the writer/actors have delivered a more humanistic play, one that even concludes on an honest note of optimism.

Not that there isn’t plenty of savage humor.

Wallerstein and Reed, playing multiple roles, deliver a succession of sharply drawn caricatures, and the results are often very funny. Wallerstein plays Brindsay’s mother, who sees Brindsay’s impending motherhood as a marketing opportunity (including selling naming rights for the baby), and she reprises a dreamscape version of Marilyn Monroe.

Wallerstein and Reed also play Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of the “Today” show, and Reed makes appearances as Callie, Brindsay’s little sister, as well as her father, Mitch, who explains as he contemplates suicide on the ledge of a building that all of his scandals and jail time were simply an effort to get closer to Brindsay.

Wallerstein and Reed are very good comic actors, and they are arguably at their best as a team of "spiritual birth guides" who with a series of bizarre rituals prepare Brindsay for motherhood. Van’s innate sense of comic timing is on full display in their piece, and many of the show’s most memorable moments are found in her impressive physical performance.

The show begins with a video interview with Van as Brindsay as she prepares to leave jail and other satirical video interviews come into play in the show: Vanessa Severo as Salma Hayek; Ashley Otis as Angelina Jolie; Danielle Metz as Jennifer Aniston and Venus Starr as Courtney Love.

Lighting and project designer Gregory Casparian, working within the severe limitations of the space, gives the show a bit of visual flash.


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