“The Living Room” at the Fringe

Theatre Review by Brian Sonia-Wallace.

Clown co-conspirators Amrita Dhaliwal and Gemma Soldati have created a madcap piss-take clothed in the profundity of death. The audience enters to a veiled woman marking tallies on a chalk board and taking phone calls about the newly deceased, and the show unfolds with a solemnity that these veteran performers push to the point of ridicule.

The conceit has a bit of Sartre’s No Exit to it – these two women exist in this room with no past and no future, answering phone calls with their condolences, marking their chalkboard, feeding their goldfish, and having the occasional dance party. We are never quite sure of their function, or our own, for that matter, as an interactive audience, but it almost doesn’t matter. Dhaliwal and Soldati are utterly committed to their world, and the best moments of comedy come from their stricken faces and quickness to react to anything audience members may do. They find humor in taking jokes too far, which somehow makes even the most absurd of their shenanigans work, from rituals with water to a never-ending interactive celebrity eulogy.

“When someone dies, you realize what an asshole you are,” Soldati says, after accounting for all the things about the newly deceased that annoyed her. This is as close to a thesis statement as this show is likely to give – it’s more interested in absurd vignettes than any grand philosophical statements, though that in itself becomes a statement.

With an extensive development period in Los Angeles before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, Dhaliwal and Soldati have hit their stride. There are still moments in the show where things happen without much apparent rhyme or reason, but this feels like the point as much as it does a flaw. “Life and death are random,” the show seems to say, “Now watch us slop water all over this stage and give a goldfish a martini!”

The physical comedy is superb, the set and props all well-thought and executed, and the occasional moment of profundity are deftly subsumed and subverted by dancing and silly faces. Three chances remain to catch this thoroughly enjoyable evening in Los Angeles before it heads to Edinburgh.

At the Hollywood Fringe Festival

Theatre of NOTE: 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028

June 21st at 9pm, June 23rd at 3pm, & June 27th at 9pm

Purchase tickets here.

At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Assembly: 54 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LR

August 1-24 at 9:20pm

Purchase tickets here.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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