From the makers of The Rage Fairy (which I adored) comes another flight into the meaningful absurd, a hilarious and biting nightmare titled Parliament. Written and directed by Max Zumstein, whose talent I envy.
The press release gives us the basics: Since 670 BCE, an imperially-appointed body of shadowy and eccentric figures has secretly controlled the globe. In ever-changing locations throughout time and space, the 13 members of the One True Parliament meet to debate, discuss, and decide on the events which will shape the story of human history. Their penchant for prudence and zeal for oratory has led them to some of the most important worldly contributions known and unknown to man. But this meeting may change the face and fate of the One True Parliament for good... Parliament is an absurdist and fantastical ensemble-driven comedy of prudence, etiquette, order, and fiscal responsibility. Those attending the meeting will bear witness to high concept skullduggery and the folly of erudition.
Please believe me, this does it little justice. Ballview Entertainment seems to downplay its amazing material, in my view. I wish they'd stop and revel in their achievements. For one thing, we the audience are very much a part of the show, as "junior" Senators present for this special, emergency meeting of the One True Parliament which secretly rules the world. I had a lovely time as we waited, with some members of the cast greeting me, one entering into a brief conversation as it became clear we were both enjoying the pre-show music. We talking about making planets.
But, who are the "senior" members of this Parliament? They make a delightfully weird and motley group, in a variety of costumes, many of them quite odd and also deeply indicative of character. The Founders Three, who greeted us as we entered, are The Impressario (Zumstein), The Maestro (Freda Yifan Jing--who does an amazing job of characterization with her cape) and The Lothario (Ty Aldridge). The Junior Parliamentary Floor Members are Constance Fidget (Liz Mina, who frankly pulls off one of the most bizarrely impressive feats in theatre history involving a very long tongue twister and juggling), Nathaniel the Usual (Rachel Banks), Apex Zenith and Orgonon Langley (Tullia Ferraro and Jenna Hogan respectively--a strange pair of eerie, frightening power). Much of the action of the play centers around The Interlocutors--Professor Tiberius Emeritus (Ian Michaels), Temperance Tempest (Megan Colburn), Esquire Esquire (Dan Masso), Dr. Abigail Season (Lauren Adlhoch), Senator Vicarious Meadow (Morgan Lorraine), and Alonzo Fist (Tristan Rewald) who interestingly possesses a gun that will only fire if the target is telling a lie.
Co-director David Kickens plays Leopold Thackery III, listed in the program simply as The Disruption. As indeed he proves to be, initially as a possible solution to the crisis which spurred this emergency meeting of the One True Parliament. He eventually emerges as instead an existential threat to the Parliament and every single member, along with quite possibly the human race. Mind you, he himself is not to blame. Rather, the Parliament itself has accidentally fashioned him into a weapon capable of shredding any human mind into a zombifying vector of horrific enlightenment.
Baroque, am I right?
More than baroque, this whole show began as startling then cranked up to mind-blowing. Both hilarious and disturbing, it managed the trick of entertaining while at the time sending a chill down one's brain. Imagine if you will a secular Good Omens liberally sprinkled with Monty Python and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but done by Americans.
As of this writing Parliament (at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre on Magnolia in North Hollywood) has closed. Unfortunately. But I eagerly await news of their next efforts, and following this cast's further performances.