Salisbury Press

Monday, May 21, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOHappenstance Theater, “BrouHaHa,” 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 and 3, and 2 p.m. Feb. 4, Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOHappenstance Theater, “BrouHaHa,” 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 and 3, and 2 p.m. Feb. 4, Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem.

There’s a ‘BrouHaHa’ at Touchstone Theatre

Thursday, February 1, 2018 by LUKE MUENCH Special to The Press in Focus

There’s a “BrouHaHa” at Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem.

“BrouHaHa” will be performed 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2 and 3, and 2 p.m. Feb. 4 by Happenstance Theater at Touchstone Theatre.

The Happenstance Theater has always wanted to perform a play featuring clowns. “BrouHaHa” is the perfect opportunity to do just that.

“As a company, we wanted to make a clown show. We have theatrical clowns in a lot of works, but we hadn’t explored the show that emphasized the clown aspect,” Happenstance Theater co-artistic director and performer Sabrina Mandell says in a phone interview.

“We discovered pretty quickly that it’s hard to make a six-person clown show, as each demands attention and got messy quickly, so we ended up making it clownesque. We asked ourselves what kind of ultimate situation to put them in, so we put them at the end of the world.”

Much like any other Happenstance Theater piece, the script and production was formed collectively by the Washington, D.C.-based troupe.

“It was collaborative. We’ve all studied clowns in some manner,” Happenstance Theater co-artistic director and performer Mark Jaster says in a phone interview.

“Sabrina [Mandell] and I met in a clown workshop, so with a lot of the work building up to this point, as a company, ‘BrouHaHa’ was an inevitability.”

This original show devised by the actors of Happenstance takes its inspiration partly from the dark comedy of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, famous for his play, “Waiting for Godot,” and from Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s late Neorealist-derived film about circus performers, “La Strada,” as well as Greek mythology, images of fleeing refugees, and Victorian-inspired aesthetics. The show runs 75 minutes with no intermission and will include a brief post-performance talkback with the performers.

The play explores not just the more lighthearted humor that clowns bring to a given piece, but the mortality injected by the dire end-of-the-world theme.

“Our company very often explores issues of impermanence, life and death. It’s sort of a theme in our work, so that’s kind of always there,” Mandell says. “It’s beautiful, and occasionally dark.”

“People find it very joyful even though we’re in this dark territory,” Jaster says. “There’s a dark resilience, the will to play despite the reminder of mortality and our imminent demise ... clowns knowing that we’re gonna die and the world will end.”

As one might expect from a troupe of clowns, “BrouHaHa” is designed to be performed just about anywhere, which, at this point, it practically has.

“We already performed it at an altar of a church,” Mandell says. “Also, in this really old barn from the early 1800s that was crumbling and had giant nails sticking out of the floor.

“Because [‘BrouHaHa’] takes place in the apocalypse, every setting is suitable, making it very adaptable.

“The show is constantly changing and growing, so we really adapt it to the space. If there’s a feature in the space we want to address, we do.”

Despite the seemingly dark theme, “BrouHaHa” is a show for all ages.

“It’s really interesting how kids love it, despite its dark theming,” Jaster says. “We play to all ages, and the people who get the references to Beckett will love it. But the kids find it hilarious that we fall all over the place and die repeatedly.”

“BrouHaHa” aims to bring about a positivity and appreciation for the little things in life, even in the most dire of circumstances.

“I hope audiences are uplifted and encouraged when they come to see us,” Jaster says.

Tickets: Touchstone Theatre box office, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; touchstone.org; 610-867-1689. Group rates available. Touchstone offers a pay-what-you-will ticket at the door, as available, allowing walk-up patrons to name their ticket price.