As the 17th annual FRIGID Fringe Festival drew to a close I caught two very funny and very different shows, one from an unusual improv troupe, the other from a writer-performer-comic who grew up in a rather unusual family.
Shakespearean Improv: As You Will
A company of four game actors. A silly title suggested by an audience member. Characters created out of thin air. Passages of improvised iambic pentameter – much of it in rhyme! – colliding with present-day American vernacular. “Scholarly” interruptions relating thoroughly imaginary historical “facts” informing the action. That’s what the Shakespearean improv company As You Will delivered at their penultimate performance at the 2023 FRIGID Fringe Festival, Off-Off-Broadway’s most spirited annual event.
The tension of anticipation: Would the flow break down? When? How? The satisfaction of laughing hard. Most impressive: an actual story arc emerging from zigzagging nuttiness.
This was the first and surely the last performance of Help! My Mom Is a Werewolf from As You Will. But other encounters with this troupe should offer much or all of the above. The show combined physical comedy with comic, sometimes lightning-quick improvisation and the cant of Shakespearean language – just the kind of goofy, sort-of-educated fun we need in dark times.
One of your parents is an ObGyn, the other a nurse midwife. You grow up in a smallish, conservative town where you might meet your parents’ patients anywhere. Might be your teacher, your friends’ mothers, later even your friends themselves. All while you’re going through childhood, puberty, adolescence.
What, you’re dying to hear, would all that be like? Claire Ayoub is here to tell us — smartly, touchingly, hilariously — in her solo show The GynoKid.
Ayoub delivers this deeply personal hourlong monologue with finely honed timing and thespian body language. She pulls us along with the force of feeling and the finesse of hard practice. Skillfully she makes us laugh at lines that wouldn’t be funny on the page. As she makes us feel every embarrassing moment, she reveals much about her inner life, while sketching a warm, loving portrait of her parents. And makes us laugh again and again.
For a moment here and there during the final third I sensed the momentum slipping, but, being the polished and courageous performer and comic that she is, Ayoub snapped it right back each time.
The GynoKid gets topical and teachy at the end, but no more than Ayoub has earned over the course of her narrative. Brava. Find out more about Claire Ayoub, her show, and her other projects at her website.
The 17th annual FRIGID Fringe Festival runs through March 5, 2023.