Long ago, Smokey Robinson taught us that there are few things sadder than the tears of a clown.
International Falls, the hard-hitting, one-act drama that opened in The Studio at Stage West last weekend, is here to tell you that has not changed.
This is an extremely cozy show by any measure. It is written by Thomas Ward, and he and his wife, Sherry Jo Ward, are its only actors. The action of the piece plays out almost entirely in a single hotel room, nestled in the studio space that is much smaller than Stage West’s primary performance area.
In these confined spaces, we learn that Tim (Thomas) is a stand-up comic who finds himself in sort of a professional purgatory: He has enough gigs to make his living doing stand-up, but those gigs are in places like the lounge of a Holiday Inn bar in International Falls, Minn.
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We get a good taste of Tim’s “good, but not that good” status when the show opens with one of his monologues, which he delivers in his underwear.
After Tim leaves the microphone, the scene shifts to the hotel room, where the desk clerk, Dee (Sherry), is . . . uh . . . making Tim feel welcome. But it turns out that Dee’s visit is not motivated so much by lust as by two other reasons: She loves comedy and hates her philandering husband.
What follows is a series of conversations in which a great deal more than Tim’s less-than-sculpted physique is revealed. The pair very frankly discuss the nature of comedy, marriage, fidelity, children and sex. We come to understand that, despite their mutual love of comedy, these folks are not really happy campers.
The show, directed by Garrett Storms, is a roller coaster. It is filled with plenty of humor (Tim is a comedian, after all), but it is also achingly sad in many ways.
So a wide range emotions are displayed across the 85 minutes of this script. But the constantly changing nature of the couple’s interactions, and the natural, conversational tone of the dialogue, make the material gripping.
The show’s impact may also be heightened by its environment. It is a great piece to have in this recently improved studio space, which Stage West has not used for performances in the past couple of years. This show has a sort of No Exit feel to it that is accentuated by the close surroundings.
Be warned that this show is not for everyone. These characters are grown-ups and they do not mince their words. But if you are up for a brief, intense burst of quality theater that is both well-written and well-played, Tim’s is a lounge act you might want to catch.