Clown Show  
by  Gary Beck
Reviewed by Debbie Broadhead Brandt

In classic Beck fashion, Gary Beck addresses somber issues in an amusing way in The Clown Show. In this play 3 characters are introduced:  Mr. Barker, the Theater Manager, and clowns Koko and Pipi. These characters are believable and charming. Even the grouchy theater manager, Mr. Barker, grows on us in an endearing way as he continues to give the clowns more time to get ready.
     Before the clowns get ready, they manage to aggravate Mr. Barker in a whimsical, playful way. The poor manager does not know what to think of these irreverent clowns, as they tease and cajole him to a frenzy. They are nothing like anyone he has ever seen before. Dan Snow is sincere and makes a great foil for the clowns as they remind him, to his chagrin, there has been a long history of female clowns.
      Nancy Beck, as  Pipi,  and Angela Madden as  Koko, bring integrity and life to these two clowns as they pose the question, “Where is the circus?”. They find themselves wondering “Why must we perform once again for children who are not used to live audiences and prefer video games?” This trio shows true expression and rapport with one another as they deliver their message which provides a commentary on today’s society. They talk about being in a “sovereign state surrounded by air” and how “We shouldn’t fear our neighbors but fear a President who does bad things.” They also touch on the subject of bullying as Koko queries, “Why must we always work for bullies who do not understand us?”  But, with courage, Koko and Pipi move forward as they “stem the tide of despair” to share their laughter with people who need them. I would love to see a sequel to the adventures of these characters!


(Two men in clown costumes are putting on white face. The boss enters)
Boss:    
          Will you two hurry up. The kids are waiting. It’s bad enough that grown men should make fools of themselves, clowning around, but you’re late.
2nd Clown:
          Circumstances beyond our control….
Boss:
          I don’t care about any circumstances. Get ready and get out there,
or you won’t get paid.
2nd Clown:
          We have a contract.
Boss:
          Then sue me. Now get moving, or else.
2nd Clown: 
          That’s not the state to put us in just before a show.
Boss:
          Do you believe these guys? If you’re not ready in five minutes, I’ll put you in a state of shock. 
                                                                                   (exits)
2nd Clown:
(to his back) 
          That’s not the state I meant.
1st Clown:
          What do you mean?
2nd Clown:
          A sovereign state, you fool.
1st Clown:
          Why then?
2nd Clown:
          Because I’m bounded on five sides by air and on one side by terrestrial matter.
1st Clown:
          I’m bewildered.
2nd Clown:
                                                                           (posing.) 
          I’m a prince.
1st Clown:
          I mean you’ve bewildered me. Who makes you a prince?
2nd Clown:
          No one made me a prince.
1st Clown:
          You better explain yourself.
2nd Clown:
          You dare demand….Well, no matter. Do you attend, you fool?
1st Clown:
          All ears.
2nd Clown:
          Admit a little reason, then. I am, in front, back, both sides and on top, encased by air.
1st Clown:
          Ah.
2nd Clown:
          And my feet rest upon the earth.
1st Clown:
          Ah.
2nd Clown:
          Thus: I exist between the aforementioned points, a principality.
1st Clown:
          Ah….Then you must always fear invasion.
2nd Clown:
          How so?
1st Clown:
          Well, neighbors being neighbors, will always….How shall I say it…. Poach?
2nd Clown:
          Ah.
1st Clown:
          Seek territorial expansion at the expense of others.
2nd Clown:
          A perspicuous comment.
1st Clown:
          What?
2nd Clown:
          I don’t fear my neighbors.
1st Clown:
          Who then?
2nd Clown:
          Rather say what then.
1st Clown:
          Well?
2nd Clown:
          Say it!
1st Clown:
          If you insist on being petty. (no answer) All right, all right. What then?
2nd Clown:
          Internal revolution. It crumbles the foundation of the state.
1st Clown:
          Do you mean like a disease?
2nd Clown:
          Another perspicuous comment.
1st Clown:
          What does perspicuous mean?
2nd Clown:
          That you’re smarter than you look.
1st Clown:
          Ah. I always knew you recognized my intelligence 
                                                  (he does a brief smart song & dance.)
2nd Clown:
          But it doesn’t mean anything.
1st Clown:
          Why not?
2nd Clown:
          Because once again we’re being ordered around by a bully who doesn’t understand or appreciate us.
1st Clown:
          It’s only temporary.
2nd Clown:
          So is this life…. I’m so tired of disguising myself in order to hide from so many horrors.
1st Clown:
          But we please so many people, especially children.
2nd Clown:
          Pleasure is fleeting. So is everything else, even the sidereal universe.
1st Clown:
          What’s that?
2nd Clown:
          The past, present, and future of all things.
1st Clown:
          So what’s left?
2nd Clown:
          Enduring until the end.
1st Clown:
          That doesn’t sound very promising.
2nd Clown:
          Promises are always broken.
1st Clown:                                                                                                                                                                That’s not true. When I was six years old my Mom promised to take me to the movies, if I was good.
2nd Clown:
          And?
1st Clown:
          I was. She did. That proves that promises aren’t always broken.
2nd Clown:
          In the vast scheme of things, what is a simple promise kept to a child? Everything is collapsing around us, despite the promises of our leaders to make things better. Yet we still paint our faces and put on our costumes in our attempt to stem the tide of despair.
1st Clown:
          It’s not that bad.
2nd Clown:
          It is. It is. And it will only get worse. (enter Boss)
Boss:
          I thought I told you clowns to stop fooling around and get ready.
1st Clown:
          We’re almost done.
Boss:
          If you’re not out there in two minutes, I’ll cancel the show and give you what’s coming to you.
2nd Clown:
          I hope you get what’s coming to you.
Boss:
          What did you mean by that?
1st Clown:
(To Boss) 
          He hopes your efforts will be appreciated.
Boss:
          Yeah. Now get going.
1st Clown:
          We’ll be right out. (exit Boss.)
2nd Clown:
          Will this suffering never end? But no matter what, we must go out there and be entertaining.
1st Clown:
          It’s our job.
2nd Clown:
          Then we should quit.
1st Clown:
          We can’t do that.
2nd Clown:
          Why not?
1st Clown:
          Who would make people laugh?
2nd Clown:
          They’ll find somebody.
1st Clown:
          What if they can’t?
2nd Clown:
          They will.
1st Clown:
          But what if they don’t?
2nd Clown:
          Then they’ll get along without laughter.
1st Clown:
          They couldn’t.
2nd Clown:
          Of course, they could. Laughter’s not that important.
1st Clown:
          You don’t mean that.
2nd Clown:
          I do.
1st Clown:
          Well, we couldn’t get along without people. We need them.
                                                                 (enter Boss)
Boss:
          This is your last warning.
1st Clown:
          We’re ready. 
(exit Boss. Both clowns stand up, put on red noses and clown hats.) Let’s go. And remember….
2nd Clown:
          I know. Laugh, clown, laugh. 
                                                                      (exit.)    
###  


Playwright/Director Gary Beck has had a long career as a director of the classics and his own plays. He directed cycles of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Moliere, Restoration comedy and works from other periods for 20 years as Artistic Director of Sidewalks Theatre. His plays and translations have been produced Off-Broadway and widely published. He has more than 25 books of poetry and fiction published.