Gary Has a Date (Emily Windler)
Saskatoon Fringe Festival
In general, I’m somewhat leery of clown shows. I find performers often excuse overacted, overblown characters and a lack of plot cohesion by declaring it “clowning”. Also, the red noses are kind of creepy. And at first, I was also somewhat leery of reviewing a clown show. Because this is a very specific genre, with very specific nuances. And a clown show should not be compared to improv, or a musical, or to traditional theatre.
But I needn’t have worried. In Gary Has a Date, Emily Windler presents the gentle, slapstick, vaudevillian style of clowning. And she is a master of her craft.
The premise is simple: An accomplished (at least in the field of snails) but painfully socially awkward young man has a date. And he’ll be ready for it, come hell, high water, packing tape or dismayingly fragile chairs. As the 45-minute show progresses, simple things such as the radio antenna, the kitchen table and the telephone cord (so nice to see a traditional telephone. Ah, nostalgia…) each seem, in turn, like insurmountable obstacles.
Windler makes it all looks incredibly easy. And that’s what sets her apart from the many other clown shows that are out there. Because preparing the props and setting the timing so it looks this simple and natural proves Windler’s considerable talent.
The ending could be revised a bit, in my opinion. But this is, after all, a clown show. It needn’t be completely believable. It’s about characterization above all. And Windler’s Gary is a likeable, sympathetic character, played with professional clowning aplomb.