Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cabaret Macabre!

I'm being a bit of an old poop this Halloween. I've been experiencing some foot pain (I probably need to replace my inserts), and getting around without a car has occasionally been a freakin' annoyance. (I should add that some of my friends have really come through for me, and for that and them, I am extremely grateful.) We had a dreadful cold snap today, with record lows, sleet and snow making dicey traveling, and a freeze expected in the small hours tonight. Also a bit of personal drama (not going into detail, except to say that someone's been crossed off the Christmas card list, at least for the time being) has left me in a sour mood. So rather than be a killjoy at parties, I've been going to the movies and the theater, and actually having a good time.

Tonight I hit Happenstance Theater's delightful "Cabaret Macabre," the second of what will hopefully be an annual event. There's no real plot here; it's a series of sketches, all influenced by sources as scattered as Edward Gorey, Tom Waits, true crimes, Tom Lehrer, Goethe, and others. There is a loose connection around the concept of a school for "Precocious Twins" but that's merely an excuse for some loosely-connected skits. As there always is, there's parts that aren't as funny as others (a repeated gag seems like a bad idea), and sometimes the audience was chuckling at stuff that was really meant to be serious (a dramatic reading of "The Erl-King", which I saw coming almost at once), but overall it was a grand experience. There's skits, readings, and musical interludes, including Schubert's "Du Bist Die Ruh" on cello, piano, and musical saw.

Mark Jaster, one of the two brains behind Happenstance, is an amazing performer, communicating volumes with a single gesture or small change of expression. Sabrina Mandell, the other brain, combines an appealing goofiness with sharp-as-a-tack expressions. The rest of the cast is quite good, and Matthew Pauli was memorable when he strutted onstage, shirtless, as "Shears the Groundskeeper." (Alas, it's only one brief bit. Yes, I'm being a toad.) Karen Hansen's original music livens up the proceedings. It's also one of those shows that makes you appreciate good lighting design.

It's all great fun, and rekindles my yearning for a full-time cabaret. One of my many recurring pipe-dreams (at least, one of those I can comfortably share on this blog) is having my own nightclub/cabaret...although I'm undecided if I'd call it "Le Cafe Fantomas" or "Das Kabarett Mabuse."

"Cabaret Macabre" plays at Round House Theatre's Silver Spring facility, right on Colesville Road next to the AFI Silver. It plays Thursday through Sunday till Nov. 13, with a show on Halloween night as well. Tickets are $15 and worth every penny. See it, folks, this is Dust & Corruption delirium.

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