How can you have a comedy without a good old-fashioned beheading? The new Alley Theatre production Fool a medieval comedy delivers that plus so much more. Officially, the world premiere opening last night of Fool to a packed audience, ready to laugh and not to give too much away, ended with a standing ovation. Theresa Rebeck’s new comedy is the fifth play to be produced by the Alley and after the premiere, last night is sure to be another among her many successes.
"One of the things the play is, is a 'comedy about comedy’” as Theresa says. Not only in her dialogue but also in each jester and characters actions, it makes this statement apparent. Why are we laughing at what we see? Are we doing it simply because the audience that is around us conditions us that way? The audience doesn’t feel the dread these characters do as many come to struggle literally for their lives and their willingness to give way to what is socially acceptable stipulates who might live or die. This play is more than just a battle of wits between two jesters who struggle for their lives but a broader glimpse into the power struggle that is evident still today in our society. Rebeck’s writing and the actors comedic timing highlights just the right moments to create this social commentary.
The play opens with an unamused appearing jester sitting in wait listening as the other room erupts in laughter while another jester preforms. Joss, the preforming jester, runs on stage after getting a suitable amount of laughs and ending his time. The dynamic of the “feuding” jesters sets the stage and mood for the entire rest of the play. Set in a “sub-kitchen”, this is where all the action takes place as these two jesters are informed that their two kings who have gathered at the castle have decided to have a competition of wits and the loser loses his head.
Like in most medieval comedies, jesters are rather intelligent and knowledge, often more so than those around them. The chemistry of the two jesters Joss and Stuart, played by Elizabeth Bunch and Jeremy Webb respectively, creates a platform where the other actors and characters can feed off. Bunch, previously seen this season in Other Desert Cities at the Alley, delivers a show stealing performance. She has spot on comedic timing and despite other actors being caught up in the laughs on stage, she delivers a flawless performance. Webb likewise delivers a hilarious performance, given many of the best comedic lines and delivered them to perfection.
Pushing the story forward we enter two evil minions Marvel and Elliot, played by Sean Dugan and Joey Collins respectfully, who build the tension and continue with the comic chaos. They are the ones to reveal the jester duel and a sinister plot upon the current ruling king played by Jeffrey Bean to whom Joss is the fool. Dugan has great comedic timing which audiences are sure to enjoy and get more than a few laughs.
The audience watches as we see the chaos of a fight to survive for all characters, especially after the body count starts rising. The Queen, played by Alma Cuervo, gets her own share of the action. Audiences should come and be prepared for anything in this hilarious new comedy. The overall play is held together and hinges on the top-notch performances of this amazing ensemble cast. If you want a few good and at times cheap laughs, then Fool is sure to deliver even with the toughest of critics.
Fool runs now on the Hubbard stage at the Alley Theatre through March 16. For additional ticket information or find out more about upcoming shows, visit the Alley Theatre box office at 615 Texas Avenue, by calling 713-220-5700 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. Also, be sure to read and watch the video about the exciting updates coming to the Alley. Read about the 2014-2015 season as it moves to the University of Houston while the Alley under goes renovations, to create a greater performing arts viewing experience. No matter what style of theater you are interested in, the Alley is sure to have a production for you.