THEATER REVIEW
Four Clowns Presents: Lunatics & Actors

Thaddeus Shafer as Dr. Duchenne in Four Clowns Presents Lunatics & Actors (Image © Andrew Eiden) 

Thaddeus Shafer as Dr. Duchenne in Four Clowns Presents Lunatics & Actors (Image © Andrew Eiden) 

The lunatics and actors of this play are presided over by Dr. Duchenne, inspired by a real-life Victorian doctor who researched correlations between facial expressions and human emotions. DR. Duchenne believes he has found a way to systematically elicit real emotions in his subjects, better than any actors could, who might call up representations of emotions, not the real thing. He demonstrates his findings by zapping his subjects with an archaic medical device that would look handsome in a sitting room if decontextualized from its sinister purpose.

Dr. Duchenne’s faithful subjects are larger-than-life in their physical acting, innocent, primal, and always hilarious. Tyler Bremer as Bon-Bon is as lovable as a family pet; Alexis Jones as Fifi evokes pathos; and Andrew Eldredge as Pepe is delightfully twitchy and lascivious. Thaddeus Shafer as Dr. Duchenne presides over his subjects and the audience alike with a quick wit and eloquent charm.

There’s a dimension of madness underlying Lunatics & Actors throughout, from Dr. Duchenne’s subjects, which give the play its name, to the authoritative rationality of Dr. Duchenne himself, which takes him into mad scientist territory as the emotions of his subjects intensify. No matter their emotional states, these characters possess a relatable humanity.

Lunatics & Actors performs alchemy on human emotion, resulting in humor with a lot to say. By uniting visceral responses to emotion with cerebral questions about emotion, the audience can find themselves somewhere in the middle. Maybe Dr. Duchenne’s demonstration should be creepy, as he prods and zaps his subjects to demonstrate his ability to elicit pure emotional states at will. But what exactly is creepy—is it Dr. Duchenne’s willingness to put his subjects through emotional or physical pain for the sake of scientific knowledge, or is it the aesthetic needs of the audience themselves, who cannot help but respond, often with laughter, to the intense emotions of the Doctor’s subjects? Lunatic and scientist, actor and audience might not be so different after all.


Four Clowns presents Lunatics & Actors, a world premiere by David Bridel

Friday, April 29 at 8pm

Saturday, April 30 at 8pm

Friday, May 6 at 8pm

Saturday, May 7 at 8pm

Friday, May 13 at 8pm

Saturday, May 14 at 8pm

Thursday, May 19 at 8pm

Friday, May 20 at 8pm

Saturday, May 21 at 8pm

Thursday, May 26 at 8pm

Friday, May 27 at 8pm

Saturday, May 28 at 8pm

Show runs 90 minutes with no intermission

WHERE: The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, 1238 W 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90026

TICKETS: $12 - $15 at www.fourclowns.org, 562.508.1788