This afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing His Majesty The Baby‘s New York Fringe performance of We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much; I can honestly say it is one of the most cleverly written works of comedy I’ve ever seen and certainly the best fringe festival show I’ve ever watched. The show is a sketch comedy, written and performed by Shon Arieh-Lerer, Nathan Campbell, John Griswold, Andrew Kahn and Max Ritvo. Playing backstage is the band Sister Helen, a rock group that “likes to play terrifying music”; they were the perfect accompaniment to the surreal, darkly funny show.
It’s difficult to give a synopsis of this show; while it is a sketch comedy the scenes are better connected than you’d find on something like SNL or the Second City stage. Some broad, over-arching themes of birth and death, truth and the ability to create it and the purpose and power of an audience all are visited throughout the show, but in-keeping with a sketch comedy style they are all addressed through absurd characters and there is, of course, no linear plot.
I was thrilled to see the scene that first caught my eye at the teaser night played out onstage (the palindromic argument that is caught in what seems to be an endless cycle) along with some brilliant scenes like that with the elderly Pepsi Garbage, “America’s Television”!. The show included a secret, hidden pepper; some “questionable meat”; a disturbing “Womb Song” and a sickly looking, curious baby.
The danger with intelligent comedy is that it can sometimes forget its purpose and become so wrapped up in high-concept ideas that it ceases to be funny, entertaining. This was not an issue for these men. Sketches such as “Adam and Susanna” allude to real-world issues like that of gay marriage and what our concept of marriage should be, however at no time does it come out and say anything directly related to the topic. It doesn’t preach or lecture and simply creates a parallel by exploring the idea of a man named Adam who believes that, according to the bible, the only real marriage is that between a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. Anything else is not only wrong, “it’s not marriage”. When the sketch ends with everyone (audience included) speaking gibberish, we are left to question where the true meaning of words comes from and lead to think about the arbitrary nature of terms such as “marriage”. Clever stuff.
I won’t give away any more sketches but I will say that I was especially impressed by the actors’ ability to perform as both men and women, the physicality of the characters and the melding of live theatre, live music, and video presentations. There was always a lot going on but it never felt confusing or forced. The entire show has clearly been worked out from top to bottom, and I found myself having many “ohhh” moments as a previous sketch’s theme would be revisited, tying the whole show together. I especially liked Stanton’s Circle, a comedy theory that was both funny and accurate; you’ll have to check out their show to see what I mean.
If you have not yet seen We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much then clear your Friday night; only one performance is left. Check them out at Venue #4, Teatro Latea at the Clemente on Friday August 22, 7:30pm.
One more thing to add, once again something that is not usually found in a review but it’s going in here anyway. One of the troupe’s members, Max Ritvo is suffering from a rare form of cancer; Ewing’s Sarcoma. It is frequently found in the bone or soft tissue of children or young adults and unfortunately, there is very little known about how it forms or how to treat it. His Majesty, The Baby has already raised over $10 000 for Ewing’s Sarcoma research, but as it is a rare type it lacks funding, and so they can always use more. If you cannot make it out to see their show, or if you can but understand the pain of dealing with cancer, please check out the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Foundation and consider making a donation. Even just sharing the link to the site can be helpful. Let’s support our fellow artists and our fellow man; we can all hope for a future without cancer.