Prague Fringe 2013
Bebe and Bobo, two whimsical tramps, find each other while waiting for death to find them, in this gender-bending slapstick comedy from The Flying Beards.
Bebe and Bobo don’t get along at first. They meet one day when Bebe happens upon the sofa where Bobo lives. Bobo agrees to rent a space to Bebe, but it will cost him: a cube of sugar a day. “In this economy?” comes the outraged response, and the fee is negotiated down to three quarters of a cube. And so it goes for Bebe and Bobo, two seemingly hopelessly, and yet unfailingly optimistic bums who live in limbo, waiting for death to find them- which they’re sure it will do at 5 o’clock.
Over the course of months and years, as they wait for death, and engage in hilarious pratfalls, breaking unabashedly into song for no discernable reason, the two develop an unlikely ryhthm and chemistry, and come to rely on, and even to love one another.
The Flying Beards’ slapstick comedy is abuzz with quirky, kinetic, and often completely baffling energy. What appears at the beginning to be a series of disconnected routines reminiscent of Abbott and Costello, unselfconscious vaudevillian acts based on physical comedy and straight-man routines staring a bearded woman and an equally endowed man, slowly morphs into one of the weirdest, but also most charming, love stories you’re likely to see this year. A story in which the line “Have you told me that I love you today?” fits right in.
The play is artfully sly about its motivations: is it a parody? Is it a parrable? It draws on the medium, and the dressings of parody (striped trowsers and bushy beards, with overexaggerated, suggestive mannerisms and gestures, plus oddball musical cues), to surprise the audience with a few genuine, unselfconscious moments of insight: “let’s not wait for death Bobo… let’s make a cup of tea.” You’ll be expecting the comedy to tire you out, or for the story to dissappoint, because it starts with the sort of premise that indie theater really loves (and may thus be overdone), but The Flying Beards will win you over, and deliver something you wouldn’t expect in the deal.
Comments from the performers after the show indicated that this is a work in progress. My only concern would be that the spontaneity, and the vulnerable, nervous energy of the performance may not keep if the show continues to evolve and grow.
While The Flying Beards stumbled over each other and bobbled their lines, seeming to almost trip over themselves as they tried to get on cue, only to fall into what were very apparently more heavily rehearsed sections of the act, the effect, far from disturbing or embarassing, was endearing at almost every moment. The narrative distance between performers and audience: those layers of a performance that grow over time to encompass the performers and seperate them from the people sitting in front of them, that tell the performers when to expect laughter and when to move on, were not evident. But that was the charm inherent to this performance: it was like watching a highly skilled improvization- made uncanny only by the fact of two people executing it simultaneously.