Bad Play

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. This is bonkers. Crackers. Bananas. As daft as a brush. And madcap comedy like this is certainly not to everyone’s taste. At the end, a few leave shaking their heads, bemused but laughingly so. It is spectacularly lunatic, a pathway through madness. But as the saying goes, there’s method in the madness.

Witty, skilful, beautifully judged, intelligent, and a damn good hour’s entertainment

Big Tobacco Theatre have spotted that American theatre is obsessed with the Great American Living Room Play. They see that the events of these plays are taken eyebrow-furrowingly seriously, not just by the original playwrights (Miller, O’Neill, Inge) but by the infinite number of small town theatres, high schools and university programmes that flock to these texts each year with earnest, meaningful productions set in an infinite number of living rooms, actors sat on an infinite number of couches. And Big Tobacco finds that hilarious.

The result is Bad Play, a spoof comedy that throws Mississippi Mud Pie in the face of the American Dream. All-American couple Woody and Mabel live the small town life, dreaming of the return of all their sons. Well, just the two - soldier boy Noble and convicted felon Brad. When these return, however, all is not harmonious and the spoofing begins.

Laugh-out-loud comedy moments start as early as the fire door announcement, and continue through a riotous triangular slapping scene and some farcical antics from the postman. The language is frivolous but never casual or clumsy - this is certainly a well made play. There is a particularly entertaining scene at the dinner table, and some stand up comedy cleverly built into the action later on. The funny lines are theirs to deliver not mine, but I do love Mabel saying to her son “I loved you from the day you were born until the day you could talk”.

The four-strong cast brings serious skill to all this silliness. The quartet trained together in the arts at Emerson College and their judgements are razor sharp. Brian Fitzgerald (Woody) and Brad Beideman (Understudy) find great comedy in their father and son roles. Playing the Great American Mother is an art form all in itself and Lyndsey Kempf hits pitch perfection with her comic portrayal. It would be so easy either to underplay the parody and disappear, or to overplay it and lose the truth of the character for cheap laughs. Kempf does neither, and her Mabel is beautifully judged, a wonderful commentary on this American archetype. Pick of the crop for me, though, is Eli Lutsky (Noble). Lutsky is a seriously talented comic actor, visually striking in movement and gesture, and with impeccable timing. His hands could do a Fringe show just on their own, mesmerising as they are. At present, Lutsky is holding down two cafe jobs while working the LA comedy circuit in the evening. I have a feeling that he won’t be doing that for much longer, given his consummate comic skill.

This is not a Bad Play at all. It’s witty, skilful, beautifully judged, intelligent, and a damn good hour’s entertainment. And quite insane.

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The Blurb

Set in your average nonspecific town, in your average nonspecific time period, Bad Play is a send-up of the American “living-room drama” with an absurd edge. It’s a delirious love letter to Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and theatrical self-seriousness brought to you by four comedians who have been satirizing genres in LA for over six years. Now they’re taking on American theatre with a play that both mocks and celebrates the storied art form. Described as ‘unabashedly absurd fun’ and ‘a rare gem’ (, Bad Play is better than good, it’s Bad.

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