As someone who reviews all different types of performance, it can be difficult to separate one’s own personal, subjective feelings about a genre and appreciate a show simply for what it is. It’s even more difficult to examine a show with an impartial eye and judge the production on how well it achieved its purpose. You wouldn’t critique a clown show with the same yardstick you would a Shakespearean tragedy. While they can both mirror the human condition, one is supposed to employ laughter while the other a thoughtful, perspicacious methodology.
That said, I was never a fan of the Frankie and Annette films, but I do appreciate their attempt at making an audience laugh at their goofy, unctuous, low-brow antics. The films became popular enough that they even created their own visual language. Any time you see someone donning a sea captain’s hat being chased by a gorilla, you can pretty much guess they’re paying homage to Frankie and Annette. With Aaron Trotter and the Incident and Bikini Beach, you have a mash up of beach film with Harry Potter mythology to create a fun and, at times, surrealistic tidal wave of weirdness.
The story takes about twenty minutes to clear some heavy-handed and overly turgid exposition, but once the pieces are in place, the show finds its confidence and takes off. At times you could feel the awkwardness of moving a genre created specifically for film to the stage. In film, you can direct the audience’s attention to a visual gag or cutaway, but on stage, the director let that slide and some of the more … for lack of a better word … subtle jokes were lost in the chaos.
The over-acting (and that’s like saying 9/11 was an act of vandalism) was at times a bit too much and ground the show’s momentum to a halt, but not for too long, and soon we were enjoying oddball ukulele solos, outlandish cat hand-puppet routines, or one of the best Paul Lynde impersonations I’ve ever witnessed. Ultimately, if you can get over your inner fuddy-duddy and enjoy watching a group of people have a great time on stage, then grab your suntan lotion and swimsuit and head for the Exit Theatre.