‘Four Clowns’ Makes Its Too-Brief East Coast Debut May 23 to June 1

Having dazzled critics and audiences in the West Coast and Midwest, “Four Clowns” (www.fourclowns.org), conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, makes its too-brief East Coast debut May 23 to June 1 in The Club at La MaMa.

In a madcap evening, four foul-mouthed, wonderfully dressed and finely face-painted clowns-a sad one, an angry one, a nervous one and a mischevous one-re-enact iconic life experiences to show how human pain is both unique and universal.

The Huffington Post called it “a drama that focuses on the epic though squalid journey of our four heroes through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The result is as sobering as the voyage is outlandish … daring and energetic, weird and wonderful.”

Alexis Jones as Sad Clown. Photo by Cameron McIntyre.

The company of three men and one woman, accompanied by a solo piano maestro, have been praised for their vitality, prowess and laser-like wit. Their 70-minute romp-partly scripted, largely improvised-takes the audience through the phases of every person’s life, illuminating our mundane earthly suffering with grisly glee.

The clowns are one woman, Alexis Jones, as the sad one, and three men: Kevin Klein as the mischievous one, Raymond Lee as the angry one and Amir Levi as the nervous one. They execute twelve scenes showing life’s defining moments through a clown’s eyes. Their lives and deaths are staged in three chapters-childhood, adolescence, and adulthood-with a musical number preceding each chapter.

Kevin Klein as Mischievous Clown. Photo by Cameron McIntyre.

We see how their archetypes are formed in their childhood, how they learn to live with them in adolescence and how they end up ultimately causing their deaths in adulthood. Subjects include: parental abuse, peer pressure, domestic violence, child molestation, depression and drug abuse.

Beside productions in Los Angeles, “Four Clowns” has toured the country to Chopin Theatre and Neofuturist Theatre in Chicago, Insurgo Theater Movement in Las Vegas, Gremlin Theater (Minnesota Fringe), Exit Theatre (San Francisco Fringe), Indy Fringe Theater in Indianapolis, South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa and Space 55 in Phoenix.

The show won the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Award for Best in Physical Theatre and Dance, the 2010 Bitter Lemons Nomination for Most Outrageous Theatre, a 2011 Ovation Recommendation, the 2011 San Francisco Fringe Award for Best of the Fringe, a 2011 Minnesota Fringe Encore Performance Invitation and a 2012 Hollywood Fringe Nomination for Best Comedy. The show is now touring nationally and has single-handedly made a name for its creator, Jeremy Aluma.

Raymond Lee as Angry Clown. Photo by Cameron McIntyre.

In Los Angeles, Stage and Cinema wrote, “The four clowns who give ‘Four Clowns’ its title are, separately and together, the most hilariously funny quartet you are likely to spend time with in one theater. And, boy, are they eager to share their sense of fun with you, the audience. This kind of joyous give-and-take spreads pandemonium and pleasure and it’s so contagious you might not even notice that, behind the beautifully painted masks which hide (but not completely) their handsome faces, they have a deeply serious agenda.” Director Jeremy Aluma was deemed “a budding genius.”

The San Francisco Bay Guardian described the play as “Rowdy, irreverent, totally inappropriate, slightly dangerous, and very funny,” adding that “the titular madcaps-wonderfully individual performances unleashed with fine ensemble precision… take their unsuspecting audience through the phases of life, dwelling on all its hideous temporal suffering with a macabre glee.”

Minnesota Public Radio (Caroline Toll) declared, “I’m sure it’s the best show I’ve seen thus far, I think it might be the best one I’ve seen potentially ever.” L.A. Weekly deemed the cast “gifted” and ordered readers to “GO!,” adding, “Aluma may be saying that human pain is at once particular and universal; what’s certain is his cast is gifted.” Bitter Lemons caled it “testament to how good LA theatre is.”

Amir Levi as Nervous Clown. Photo by Cameron McIntyre.

Jeremy Aluma co-founded Alive Theatre in Long Beach, CA and headed it for two years, directing “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings,” “The Adventure Play” and “What Can We?” with Alive Theatre (Long Beach, CA). His other directing credits include: “Sublimity” at Stanislavsky Institute (Sao Paulo, Brazil), “The Yogamerican Dream” at Theatre Row (NYC), “Robin Hood” at South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA), “Henry’s Potato” at REDCAT (Los Angeles), “Prehistoric Hunt” at Odyssey Theatre (Los Angeles), “Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)” at Sacred Fools (Los Angeles), “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” with Urban Theatre Movement at Company of Angels (Los Angeles), “Four Clowns: Romeo & Juliet” (Los Angeles), “Lunatics & Actors” (Los Angeles) “Lady of Larkspur Lotion” at Theatre 68 (Los Angeles), and “Actor’s NIghtmare” and “Sister Mary Ignatius” at Morgan-Wixson (Santa Monica).

The show has lighting design by Donny Jackson, costume design by Cat Elrod, make-up design by Amy Kubiak and props design by Natalie Miller. Pianist is Amir Khosrowpour.

La MaMa E.T.C. will present “Four Clowns” May 23 to June 1, 2014 in its second-floor Club, 74A East Fourth Street. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 PM and Sundays at 5:30 PM. Tickets are $18 general admission and $13 for students and seniors. Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come, first-served basis. The box office is 212.475.7710 and www.lamama.org.

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.