After the success of WE’RE VERY PROUD AND WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH at this summer’s New York Fringe Festival, His Majesty The Baby is bringing its ever-mutating brand of comedy to various venues in New York and elsewhere. Last week they hit the cozy back room of Chelsea’s People’s Improv Theater with the (nominally) holiday-themed LIMITED EXPERIENCE. The team (Shon Arieh-Lerer, Nathan Campbell, John Griswold, Andrew Kahn and Max Ritvo) continued its exploration of the spectator-performer relationship with a brief but substantial taster-plate of innovative sketches, projections, songs and soliloquies.
The theme of the evening was introduced with a rousing sing-along number which lauded the virtues of the theatrical fourth wall and assured us that “the audience can never take the stage”. Naturally, a rule like that is made to be transgressed, and comic tension simmered as boundaries began to unravel. Satire itself became the object of some of the lampoons: A tutorial on the art of parody morphed into a Dadaist exercise in elevated nonsense. A naturalistic glimpse of the challenges of intimacy turned into metatheater as audience members became pawns in a domestic conflict. The message, of course, is that conventions – even conventional attacks on convention- make us mentally lazy. Truth is by nature transient and requires vigilance, a continual self-examination and dismantling of convenient constructs.
If all this sounds a bit like a Gurdjieff discussion group in sketch-comedy clothing, fear not. HMTB manages to be cerebral in a goofily humble fashion. The material is thought-provoking, but never opaque or smugly intellectual and the performers are charismatic and fun to watch as they surrender themselves to the uncertainty of chance. Eschewing the conventional imperative to deliver zingers at regular intervals, the lads are willing to sacrifice the immediate laugh response for the sake of a larger payoff. Their trust in the audience is reciprocated. Even when we wonder where a scene is going, we’re willing to follow them. Where it all ends up may be entirely different from one night to the next. But that, like the controlled accidents of a Pollock canvas, is the beauty of it.
His Majesty The Baby will be back at the P.I.T Theater on January 27. 123 East 24th Street, New York, New York. (212) 563-7488. HMTB website: http://hismajestythebaby.com