Morro and Jasp Gone Wild is what happens to two teen sisters when, on their way to the beach for Spring Break, they take a wrong turn and find themselves with a wrecked car, a trunk full of props, a book outlining Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy some possibly mood altering substances, and the threat of being eaten (or possibly just cuddled) by a wild animal.
So, a quick run-down on Morro (Heather Marie Annis) and Jasp (Amy Lee) for the uninitiated – (“the uninitiated” being anyone who didn’t happen to catch their show Morro and Jasp do Puberty at last year’s Clown Festival). They are sisters. They are squarely plunked down on opposite ends of the spectrum: Jasp is a girly wide eyed innocent who dreams of have a romantic … dare I say romantical … encounter at the beach a la Sandy from Grease with the boy of her dreams while her sister, Morro is a hard core tom boy rock and roll party girl who couldn’t care less about romance. She just wants to drink some smuggled beer, and have some fun with her team as they compete in a “Save the Fish” volleyball tournament. While both sisters have different reasons propelling them they share the same frenzied desire to get to the beach. To GO WILD. It’s just your basic teen story of raging hormones as two sisters live the dream, mark off the milestones, and let the chaotic hilarity ensue when it all goes wrong. Except, you know … they’re clowns.
So the question is – are young, eager, exploring clown girls-gone-wild any different than non-clown girls on Spring Break? And the answer is …um … yeah. First of all, they’re clowns. Secondly, their version of “Gone Wild” is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than what you’re thinking. Under Byron Laviolette’s direction when clowns go wild by the end of it they’re covered in banana mush, beer, water, mushroom mush and … oh I’m sure other things. Things I’m not necessarily sure I’d like to understand. Also, when clowns go wild they ask for audience participation, apparently. A LOT of it. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The road trip starts off like any classic road trip … with a radio battle. With little more than a few volleys we get an immediate snapshot of who these gals are … Jasp is all Spice Girls / Cher while her sister Morro is Nirvana cranked loud and accompanied by crafty air-guitar. When Jasp does a fantastic word for word sing-along of TLC’s Waterfalls (not the easy part … not the part we all know … the TRICKY part) and Morro remarks “How do you know that???” we get a perfect snapshot of Jasp as she replies “I spent a few days in my room learning it and I’m going to teach it to you and all your friends on this trip”. This is an absolutely brilliant moment; clown nose or not we’ve just been given an E-Z Pass to the toll booth of this girl’s heart.
The fight for radio dominance soon gives way to full on flashback as the girls recount the moment that got them to this trip. Quicker than you can say “rest stop” the gals get themselves into a jam when they crash the car in the middle of nowhere with nothing but beer, Maslow, suitcase items, and condoms to help them out of their jam. Hell, their little cell phone doesn’t even work. Good thing they can borrow yours.
As the evening progresses each performer’s style crystallizes; Lee’s Jasp is a sweet, intellectual wide-eyed type of funny and she comes with a few bells and whistles which are crowd pleasers (a moment when she throws her voice is so astonishing that the audience was brought up short in full-on admiration). Annis’ Morro is much more of a physical comic; she bends and twists to exaggerate her point and seems to continually find herself the recipient of an action which requires her to throw herself on the floor.
There’s a solid chemistry between the two performers, they trust each other on stage – that’s obvious – and play well off each other. What would have made Morro and Jasp Gone Wild a slicker production for me would have been more of that interaction and far less audience participation. Actually – NO audience participation would have given the show much better pacing. Every time the lights went up it was like hitting a speed bump.
I find it’s always a mixed bag when audience members are asked to take center stage. There are always three ways this can go. 1: The person chosen winds up being a total dud – gamely playing along, but a dud all the same – and whatever momentum the performance had has now been lost. Or 2: the person chosen winds up being so self-conscious that they begin to over act, mugging wildly like a little caged bee which forces the actual performer to backpedal just to keep the bit running on course. Best case scenario would be option 3: the person chosen just happens to know how to be a prop, nothing more, and assists the actors well enough so that the story moves forward. Once their part is done, they meld back into the audience seamlessly without thinking everyone is staring at them (no one is).
The performance I caught had someone from each category. I couldn’t help feeling that at those moments the talented women whose performances I was enjoying had just been hijacked by … well … audience members.
Still there is no doubt that the team of Morro and Jasp are laugh-out-loud funny; they have a way of making somewhat taboo things completely acceptable to laugh at and there were times I couldn’t believe that things which usually have me rolling my eyes were bringing forth huge, unladylike like brays of laughter. And really, in the end, that’s the most important thing. Some things will hit, some things might miss, but overall Morro and Jasp Gone Wild delivers as promised. If you’re looking for wild … you’ll find it here.
~~~Morro and Jasp GONE WILD Created and Performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee Directed and Dramaturged by Byron Laviolette . September 15 – 18, 2011 (final show Sun 9/18 @ 7pm) Playing as part of Amuse Bouche 2011: A NY Clown Theatre Festival Hors d’Oeuvre The Brick | 575 Metropolitan Ave | Brooklyn NY . Click Here to buy tickets.