Aug 26, 2017
   3 Fringe plays on MODERN LIFE   

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For some reason GigCity published their reviews as a three-pack loosely related to the theme of "modern life," which applies to two of them quite well and the third only in the sense that it isn't explicitly a period piece. Scroll down to You Fucking Earned It, I won't be reviewing a second of my own show's reviews because that'd be a level of narcisism even I--with my obvious gifts in that regard--do not have the energy to maintain.

Derek Owen reviews the bouffon clown show You Fucking Earned It, and is immediately confused. He has many questions, which I will answer to the best of my ability: "What are they doing?" They are doing bouffon, as implied by the name of the company which Owen himself tells us: Bouffonatrix. "What are they doing now?" As bouffons, they are "distilling the complexity of societal dysfunction into grotesque physical comedy," as described in the about section of their company website. And finally, "What the hell is going on?" What indeed? Let's see what google has to say:

"The difference between the clown and the bouffon is that while the clown is alone, the bouffon is part of a gang; while we make fun of the clown, the bouffon makes fun of us. At the heart of the bouffon is mockery pushed to the point of parody. Bouffons amuse themselves by reproducing the life of man in their own way, through games and pranks." - Jacques Lecoq

Even the most basic aspects of the form are outside Owen's understanding, and he has clearly made no effort to rectify this deficiency. "Who exactly the characters on stage are supposed to represent is never clear. One looks like a Quasimodo harlequin minus the limp, and the other, God knows what she is. A skinny curling stone maybe?" They're clowns. They are wearing clown costumes. Specifically, bouffon costumes, like this. "At the beginning, Quasimodo was interrogating Curling Stone (and they said this play was only about the US!) about Honduran bananas, for some reason." Great, so he doesn't understand sarcasm either. But anyway, the reason is that "making the beautiful people laugh is the weapon and its aim is to kill by asphyxiation in the laughter or by turning the joke so that they realise that they are laughing at themselves and in the horror of their reflected image they have a heart attack and die." - Philip Gaulier

Owen at least recognizes that the performers have oodles of talent, he just needs to do the reading and understand the parameters of the show he's going to see, so he can tell when he's seeing brutally effective bouffon rather than just two people "spinning from subject to subject like a junkie on a meth binge." I get the feeling he has trouble grasping even one entendre, let alone more. Reading this review, I feel a similar confusion to what Owen must have felt watching the show. Why does he ask so many questions? What is the point of just listing component themes without mentioning how it makes the audience feel? Why would you send a music critic to a satire?

Audiences at this festival put more stock in reviews than they can possibly warrant, because why would you listen to friends or make up your own mind when you can read the opinion of someone who was ordered to be there by their boss? This makes reviewing every show a priority, and consequently you have a food critic, a civic affairs reporter and music reviewer Derek Owen dispatched to give you their expert judgement on something they know nothing about. Like lead-laced costume jewelry from China, this review--in all its shoddy, rushed-to-market splendor--is the result of prioritizing speed and cost over quality. This is what you get when you won't pay for a newspaper, but still demand full coverage. You deserve this review, you fucking earned it.



Owen's review of Candy Bones crams a lot into three very confusing paragraphs. What's immediately obvious is that he hated the show, but the why is never revealed. And the why should comprise the meaty center of the review corn-dog: without that, you're just sucking grease out of polenta. Without explaining the why, it is in fact not a review at all, but merely a rant.

"While enduring the preposterous, incoherent, profoundly unfunny mess that is Candy Bones," the tirade begins, "you might imagine Spinal Tap album reviews..." followed by three fake review quotes about the fake band from the movie This Is Spinal Tap. *record scratch* What the shit? The hell just happened in the middle of that sentence? I love a good confusing analogy as much as cartoonists love anthropomorphism, but this one comes from so far out of left field that it is, quite literally, foul. Is this one of the warning signs of a stroke? Although, there is something beautifully poetic about an incoherent sentence containing the word incoherent, but this is most certainly found art.

Quoting someone else's sick burn is lazy reviewing even if it directly applies to the subject matter, but in this case it's so lame it should be amputated. Like, if he wanted to call the show a "shit sandwich" he could just do that without attribution because it's hardly copyrighted material. And if he thought the show was "treading in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry," he could at least tell us to which part of a show containing no poetry, and about as much sexuality as a team-building exercise, it was supposed to apply (and also maybe don't use the R word--even the Black Eyed Peas would call it "a sea of it started sexuality" these days). Lastly, "On which day did God create Candy Bones, and could he not have rested on that day too?" is problematic for two reasons. First, god doesn't exist, and the creator introduced herself before the start of the show so there should be no room for confusion. Second, it's 2017: if you're going to quote something at least take the 10 seconds and make sure you have the words right.

Owen fully admits that the review is mean spirited, as he begins the final offensive with "Mean spirited, yes," but he saved the two lowest blows in this sewer-snorkling review for last. 1) He gave it zero stars, which is so unheard of that at least three different people told me about it within an hour of it being published (with the lone saving grace that the lack of stars on the review aggregator site merely makes it look like it was never reviewed at all), and 2) he gives away the punchline and the tag for one of the funnier sketches in the entire show. I would hate to read a Derek Owen review of the Sixth Sense. And I apologise to Candy if I just tricked you into reading the spoiler as well, that's been a problem in a number of reviews at this festival, and usually I won't review them to avoid boosting the signal. But I'm making an exception for the man with animosity for fingers.

Clearly, there is a subtext to this review that we, the fringe-going and review-reading public, are not privy to. Either the performer, one of her characters, or the show itself, broke his heart, stole his significant other, or murdered his childhood dog. There is no other reasonable explanation for how a comedy show could make someone this angry. Confused, sure. Uncomfortable, most definitely. But even Big Bang Theory (or Owen's go-to reference-point for unfunny: SNL) doesn't make people angry. It just doesn't make them laugh. This is the worst review I've ever read, and I've read some terrible reviews. It does none of the things a review is supposed to and several things it very much shouldn't. Since the seal on zero stars has now been cracked, I'm giving this NEGATIVE INFINITY STARS.

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