Recent Cutbacks Does it Again. ‘Fly You Fools!’ at The PIT.
Thomas Burns Scully
OnStage New York Critic
NEW YORK, NY - Kristin McCarthy Parker must have the most consistent track record of any director I have reviewed in my time at OnStage. Her portfolio includes ‘Kapow-i Gogo', ‘Puffs’, and ‘Hold On To Your Butts’; all shows that I loved unreservedly. She knows how to pick her projects, surround herself with good people, and put on a top-tier show. So when an invitation came through to me for ‘Fly You Fools!’ (the follow-up to ‘Hold On To Your Butts!’ from her company Recent Cutbacks) I was ready at a moment’s notice to take a trip down to The PIT. I am pleased to report back that Parker is now four-for-four on directing shows that I adore, and, in a highly pleasant lack of surprise, ‘Fly You Fools!’ is a must-see.
For those who didn’t catch it, ’Hold On To Your Butts!’ re-told the story of ‘Jurassic Park’, shot-for-shot (or near enough), using nothing but two actors, a junk drawer full of props, and a foley artist. Continuing in that grand tradition, ‘Fly You Fools!’ tells the story of ‘Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ in the same manner, only using three actors instead of two. With the addition of this third actor, and the selection of an even more epic film to condense and parody, the stakes are sufficiently raised to make ‘FYF’ a suitable successor to ‘HOTYB’. Throw shadow puppetry and a make-shift wind-machine in to the mix, and you have the stage set for a show that does for parody theatre what Peter Jackson did for fantasy films.
I’ve said it time and time again: the best parodies are ones that really understand their source material. Whatever criticism you might levy at Recent Cutbacks (I don’t know what that criticism may be, I can’t find any, but for the sake of prose let’s pretend) they clearly understand and love ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Jokes made at the expense of the originals are on the nose, insightful, and occasionally cutting, but are always playful in a way that only fans know how to be. That said, wit and humorous criticism are not at the heart of what makes Recent Cutbacks’ fun. The great joy of ‘HOTYB’ and ‘FYF’ is that they perfectly capture the childish thrill of playing pretend. In the same way we ran around being knights or wizards as kids, they run around now, on stage. They’re grown adults, acting like kids, acting like grown-ups. The sheer joy they perform with, the comic audacity of their low-fi visual and auditory thrills, the laughable way they try to recreate million dollar special effects and camera editing with dollar-store props, a microphone and mime… there is nothing an audience can do, but laugh. The whole thing is like a perfect, sixty minute, rock and roll comedy drum solo. I can’t recommend it enough. But I will certainly try.
Their cut of the script comes out to a brisk hour-and-a-little-bit. This feels a tad short, and I will admit I was left wanting a little more at the end, but only because everything that had come previously was so unstoppably good. You want more of this show in the same way, I would imagine, as I would want sex with Olivia Wilde. Even if I’d been allocated a generous long-weekend’s worth, I would probably still ask for more. The three performers are top notch. Returning from ‘HOTYB’ are Nick Abeel and Kyle Schaefer, as devastatingly masterful as ever. Joining them is Matt Zambrano who matches them comedically, blow for blow. Foley artist Blair Busbee, also part of the ‘HOTYB’ team, is back in stunning form, unifying the action sonically as only she and her predecessor Kelsey Didion (Original foley artist on ‘HOTYB’ and musical arranger here) know how. The whole show is so seamless and blisteringly paced that it’s near impossible to imagine the rigorous standards these actor/creator/improvisors hold themselves to. Whatever it is Kristin McCarthy Parker does to assemble and coordinate these teams of people, she must employ some form of witchcraft. Any other explanation does not account for the magic each of her projects seems to have.
I have said it before, but I love a show that is completely unashamed of being silly. ‘FYF’ is that in truckloads. Whether it’s an actor using cardboard and a roll of paper-towel to create a cheap special effect, Aragorn shouting out his own name as he kills orcs, or three actors recreating the New Line Cinema logo, this show is brilliantly facetious. Even if you are not the biggest ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, you will get the biggest kick out of this. And if you are the biggest ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, this show will be like receiving a heroin overdose. Recent Cutbacks have a great thing going here, building wonderfully on the success of ‘HOTYB’ (which is returning for two special double-bill shows in April) they look set to develop an ongoing franchise of these foley and fantasy-play mockbusters that, with any luck, will run from now until the universe’s inevitable heat-death. I do, however, advise you not to wait that long to get involved. ‘Fly You Fools!’ is an excellent evening’s entertainment. A sugar rush of endearing, childish brilliance, simultaneously lauding and undercutting Peter Jackson and JRR Tolkein’s legacy. So much fun it might change your life a little. You must see it.
‘Fly You Fools!’ will run beginning April 1st (April Fools’ Day) through Friday, April 29 at 8:00pm. Tickets are $20 for general admission. Tickets are available at thepit-nyc.com and at the door. The Peoples Improv Theater is located at 123 E 24th St in New York, NY. For more information, visit thepit-nyc.com/fools.
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded by TimeOut NY, the New York Times, BAFTA US and other smaller organizations too numerous to mention. His writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
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