It Ain't Easy Being A Clown: South Coast Rep's 'Four Clowns' Amuse and Shock

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Consider the clown. Though part of an illustrious history of performing that reaches back some 4,500 years, lots of people revile, fear and downright hate the creatures. Kind of sucks for such a fun-loving trope
But for every terrifying John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise, and for every unctuous dolt like Bozo, there are hundreds of very serious performers who embrace the cult of clowning like a douche bag throwing back Jager Bombs.
Case in point: Four Clowns, a quartet of clowns that have barn-stormed the country the past two years. Conceived by Jeremy Alumna, the Los Angeles-based troupe has received rave reviews from appearances at fringe festivals in that city, along with Minnesota and Hollywood.

While the troupe has created a Romeo-and-Juliet spin on clowns, this is its first show, billed as a "physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be a human."

The four clowns represent the ancient archetypes: sad clown, mischievious clown, angry clown and nervous clown. 

With generous dollops of "graphic violence, strong sexual situations and other wanton behavor," this ain't balloon-animal-tying, seltzer-spewing clowning by a long shot.
But while they veer into some darker corridors of the human psyche, these clowns aren't designed to fulfill the evil clown quotient.

"Historically, (Clowns) served as a means to entertain, yet they were sometimes the only people who could comment honestly and fully on the inner politics of the day, sometimes even changing the policy," Alumna said via e-mail. "In the modern era there is an association with clowns being scary and frightening but their traditional purpose is anything but scary. Our clowns play with themes of violence and sexual situations, but it's strictly for comedic purposes. The clown in Four Clowns will make you laugh and they might shock you but you're not going to get scared." Two of the clowns have OC connections: Kevin Klein, who was born and raised in OC (Mischievous Clown), and Raymond Lee (Angry Clown) a former resident.

Four Clowns is part of South Coast Repertory's Studio SCR, an effort in which smaller, more eclectic performers around Southern California get the opportunity to perform shows in that prodessional theaters' far cozier digs. The next one of special note is the Monkey Wrench Collective's re-mounting of Mark Ravenhill's Pool/No Water, May 4-6.


SCR's Nicholas Studio, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.  $20-$25. www.scr.org; www.fourclowns.org.

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