Farce with finesse
By Warwick Moffat
Parallelogramophonograph (or Pgraph for short) are an improvised theatre troupe from Austin, Texas. All four members are experienced players, having established local reputations both individually and as a group. With a weekly show back home, Pgraph have developed a number of themes or ‘formats’ to keep their improvised plays fresh. It would normally be my duty to at least loosely describe the plot, but I am happy to assure you this show will definitely be different every night. Their French farce format is a delightful excuse to allow the silliest sense of humour to almost mask what is clearly a deep appreciation of surrealist theatre.
The makeup and costume help pull off this very clever trick. What you see is four eighteenth-century French fops a-la-Tartuffe with plenty of pancake, rouge cheeks and dramatized speech. What you get is a nineteenth-century plot of middle-class listlessness, ambition and intrigue.
AND improvisation. There is no hint of any preparation, apart from the French farce style and some extra costumes backstage. Quite obvious mishaps such as a slip of the tongue or accidental contact become the basis for key changes in the story-line. There is also a charming ability for the players to allow themselves to highlight the ridiculousness of how the show is progressing without stepping completely outside it.
This work is only possible through talent, practice and teamwork. Valerie Ward artfully weaved insane ramblings with helpful plot developments. Roy Janik gleefully provoked pity and laughter from the audience in equal measure. Kaci Beeler freely adapts to anything her colleagues throw at her. Kareem Badr particularly shone as the authority figures who lacked any true authority.
The name Parallelogramophonograph suggests an absurd but smoothly crafted muddle of things that only brave people would try to combine. In the case of Pgraph, the name does say it all: both improv and play, masterful and wacky, clever and slapstick, worthy and entertaining. The Butterfly Club with its eclectic furnishings and expertly mixed cocktails is this talented troupe’s natural Melbourne home-away-from-home.
Wed 26th February to Sunday 2nd March.
Thurs, Fri, Sat at 7pm. Wed and Sun at 6pm.
The Butterfly Club, Carson Place (off Little Collins Street), Melbourne CBD.
$23, $20 Conc, $18 Group (8+).
03 9663 810703 9663 810703 9663 810703 9663 8107 or online at www.thebutterflyclub.com