'The End of the World' Brings Lots of Laughs About Bodily Functions and Fluids
"Magna Cum Laude," the opening sketch in Casey Smith's new one-man show at the Atwater Village Theatre, has nothing to do with graduation honors, but it sure sets an appropriate tone for the 11 bawdy scenes that follow. Clocking in at just over an hour, At Some Point in the Process of the End of the World is a virtuoso performance of visual gags about human orifices and the things that go in and out of them, interspersed with a healthy dose of cartoon violence and other extreme, but very recognizable, signs of contemporary personal and cultural alienation.
Working entirely without costumes or props, and uttering only a few incidental spoken words, Smith incorporates precisely timed, sophisticated audiovisual production elements into a preternaturally high-energy street performance-style mime act. Surrounded on three sides by two rows of seats on risers with a full wall projection screen behind him, Smith engages in constant interaction with both the audience and a lavish procession of moving and still pictures created by his production collaborator Dustin Hughes.
While Lust deserves top billing, many of the other Seven Deadly Sins also make strong cameo appearances in this show, as Smith portrays hopeless Gluttony in "Fatass," perverse Vanity in "Miss American Style" and the Greed of rampant hyper-commercialism in the closing "ADHDOCDADDALSIBSOCDOCDOCD[etc.]..." Pantomimed images of dead infants, suicidal self-burial, and mindless brutality don't interrupt the steady barrage of audience laughter and involuntary snorts, but they do tinge the proceedings with a macabre, even sad sense of our own powerlessness to confront destructive forces in our midst.
For the most part, though, it's a Rabelaisian playfulness that drives the show forward through scene after scene, all perfectly accompanied by a multi-genre (though mostly new wave pop) soundtrack. One of our own favorite bits was "Photoshit," in which Smith cajoles individual audience members into directed poses for his pantomimed camera, each flash immediately followed by the on-screen appearance of a photo of a different person, or creature, making a comparable gesture. The other was "Instant Recess," a hilariously spirited full-audience excursion into the on-screen wilderness, with Hughes's video image directing the path of our merry traipse into nature (even as we remain at our seats). Of course, we don't all make it back from the trip alive.
Smith's 2009 show Violators Will be Violated, like this one directed by Jennifer A. Skinner, won the LA Weekly Award for Best Solo Performance and subsequently traveled to festivals in New York and elsewhere around the country. Fans of his distinctive brand of scatological humor and high-absurdity sex jokes should definitely catch this "End of the World" before it's too late.
Circle X Theatre Co.'s At Some Point in the Process of the End of the World plays Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 through April 4. Tickets $23 online, $20 at the door.