Turns out it's not as far from Waxahachie to Off-Broadway as we thought--or from the tights-clad bawdy high jinks of the 16th century to 21st-century neo-vaudeville.
Those actors who bravely don English peasant attire to stroll through Scarborough Faire and harass sweating patrons can only be doing what in showbiz is called "paying their dues." These wages have always looked a bit high to us, especially since they seem to be about as key to a successful entertainment career as posing for Playboy. But our cynical assumptions have been rattled by the graduation of The Flaming Idiots from Scarborough Faire clowns to national touring trio. It was a lengthy education--Kevin Hunt, Rob Williams, and Jon O'Connor started as regular Waxahachie performers in 1984 and didn't leave until this past February. Sadly, the cockney accents and the tights have been peeled off. What remain are the happy feet, the snappy repartee, the death-defying abs, and the agile catches and tosses of materials not wisely made airborne--fire and knives, to name two.
Earlier this year, the Idiots completed a sold-out two-week run at Manhattan's New Victory Theater. New York is a deli town, as anyone can tell you, so New York Times critic Lawrence Van Gelder had to warn readers that one of Williams' tricks is "not for the squeamish." The man's appalling onstage stunt? He makes an expert b0logna sandwich with his toes. We've always considered our sensibilities to be rather tender, but nonstandard digits in the execution of food service hardly rates as horrifying--unless you're talking about chips and salsa. Then we'd run screaming from the theater.
Williams is the chatty ringmaster with the merciless whip whose nom de stage is Gyro. Goofball Jon O'Connor is Pyro, the man who juggles change as if he were on the North Dallas Tollway at rush hour. Curly-tressed Kevin Hunt likes to be called Walter; he balances a bicycle on his chin and doesn't mind having his tummy used as a trampoline by the others. These charming Idiots are not in the least afraid of failure; they brush themselves off, sling a one-liner, and repeat the stunt till they succeed. Hilariously, audience cheers are usually bigger the third or fourth try.
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