For a pure taste of vaudeville and plain Monty Pythonesque silliness, treat yourself (and friends) to an evening with The Flaming Idiots. No, “flaming” has nothing to do with GLBT. It has everything to do with “over-the-top” entertainment. Not only is the troupe’s famous logo that hangs from the rafters partially burned and singed, but there is a circle of flames prominently painted on the hardwood floor. Know what to expect.
Stars Kevin Hunt (a.k.a. Walter), Jon O’Connor (Pyro) and Rob Williams (Gyro), absent from the circuit for the past five years, have reunited for a reunion tour” complete with all the zany “jugglin’, jokin’, throwin’, swallowin’, leapin’ and conquerin’” audiences as they did for 20 years to international acclaim.
Why see them now? Because, in the midst of war and political chicanery and UT being only #2 in football, we all need to re-affirm our inner child of awe, curiosity and playfulness. And the Zach Theatre (Kleberg Stage) “was the theater that made us a theater show,” says Williams, who stated that Austin is “our real hometown, the place we all love more than a zombie loves your brain.”
Yes, they are showing their age, but their athleticism in doing some of those crazy stunts seems to have lost hardly a step. In fact, one adagio-like skit . . . well, seeing is believing. That and other sketches — from the fiery opening, the flying machetes, the bean bag juggling, coin catching and sandwich-making with Gyro’s feet — are all splendid feats of unparalleled and unapologetic skills and shtick. Each one has “S.O.P.,” standing ovation potential).
If you shy away from audience participation, I suggest you find a distant seat in the arena and simply throw a blanket over yourself. I mean, after all, Walter IS missing a portion of one finger.
And that sandwich has to be eaten by some one. (Attagirl, Rachel!) And if you weigh at least 235 pounds and are chewing gum . . . God help you!
But then, the original vaudeville had lots of strange acts, too. So bring on the whips! Add the leaf blowers and beach balls. Round-up the rockin’ reindeer and the juggling pin times ten. You may have to close one eye after Swami Walter inflates that balloon but, don’t miss this joyous revival running through (at least) March 14. It is fun and frivolity for the whole family.
An added word about the musical accompaniment, sound effects and ad hoc sketch characters: Allen Robertson (composer, musical director and keyboards); Thomas Nuendel, violin, and Arnie Yaňez (percussion, “Itty Bitty Biscuit Band”). All have history with the Flaming Idiots. And their lively notes and tunes – a combination of quasi-klezmer and songs you know are just the right punctuation to guffaw-inspired tricks.
Williams indicated Austin is the final reunion tour stop. And he promises that T-F-I will not get back together again until Gabriel blows his horn. Unless he morphs into Brett Favre, I’d take him at his word and hustle back to the Zach. Welcome home, you Idiots.
Spicewood (Austin) TX, USA