‘Simple Simples’ Could Be Your Dumbest Smartest Choice At This Year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival

by Daniel Warren

The collective calls it "an experience akin to reaching into a bag forever, or perhaps diving into the shallow end"
Inspired by Alfred Jarry’s theory of ‘pataphyics,’ the latest Wet The Hippo stage production is a vulnerable, oxymoronic delight. In a self­imposed world of dilly-dallying literalism five color-­coded characters embark on a crude (and crudely implicit) mission to “start and finish the show.” As the title suggests, the five actors (who go by their real­ life monikers) each portray a ‘Simple’ who is, yes, mentally simple, and possibly, though not definitively inbred (note that facts aren’t pataphysical).

While Wet The Hippo is comprised of seasoned improvisers —­­ The Weekly suggests they stage L.A.’s “craziest improv show”­­’ — Simple Simples’ borrows, but does not steal from improv’s prone -to-­fail spontaneity. The scripted show of roughly 60­ minutes presents a sequence of ‘off­ the ­cuff’ games, each designed to “save the show,” or, more aptly, to keep it going. While seeming to lack the heart of dramatic pretense (i.e. a plot) Gilkey’s fondness for linguistic bombastics and balletic slapstick finds its emotional core in each performer’s willingness to take off their mask and reveal their all­ too­raw, all ­too ­personal innards. In conclusion, the show “discovers” its own absurd premise is precisely to share their hearts, together. In retrospect, one realizes the antagonist of ‘Simple Simples’ exists indefinitely, off stage, haunting the theatre eves and aisles, lying dormant in audience member pockets and purses... it’s our own ‘Fuckerberg’ reality, a network culture seeming to value “honest emotions” (positive response: likes and shares post with caption: “omg same”) until they’re undesirable (negative response: *block all user’s posts*).

The joy of Simple Simples? It requires no awareness of Facebook, HBO, cinema, literature, theatre, or anything in order to follow the basic celebrations and tragicomic defeats of its rainbowed Fools. The disappointment? While nodding to events surrounding the riotous opening/closing of Jarry’s Ubu Roi, the charismatic cast, even in their most devilish, most reckless, and most crass, exists lightyears from anything capable of inducing a riot. Not that a riot is expected, since, pataphysically speaking, expectations are out of play, or, at least, matters of recreation.

Directed by John Gilkey, ‘Simple Simples’ runs every Friday and Saturday through June 24. 9 p.m. Cirque School LA. 5640 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

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