In some ways Christopher Durang is comparable to Salvadore Dali. You can always see glimpses of brilliance, even if some pieces have more cohesion than others. Durang has a penchant for excavating the potential lunacy in any given situation, usually by revealing the lapse in practical logic. He’s always entertaining, but usually works best when he cleaves to a thematic thread, in dark comedies like : “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You,” “The Marriage and Bette and Boo,” and “A History of the American Film.” Part of Durang’s genius is his ability to appear to go off the rails, without actually doing so. The results can be giddy and delightful. Which brings us to “Laughing Wild.”
Laughing Wild introduces us to two characters: The Woman and The Man. The Woman delivers a monologue in which she describes her inability to deal with the world at large (pop culture) and everyday incidents in particular. She always seems to be on the verge of hysteria and confused when trying to interpret the intentions of those around her. She’s quirky, amusing, hopped up and absorbing. When a man at the grocery store seems oblivious to the fact that she just needs to grab some tuna fish, she has a meltdown. When The Man gets his turn to address the audience, the style is much more formal and controlled. His demeanor is calm and reasonable. The Man and The Woman represent two ends of the spectrum. While The Woman is too animated and loopy, The Man is anal retentive and intensely submissive. He, too, is funny and intriguing. Durang manages to get at the truth of their conditions without making them seem quaint or clownish.
In the second act we see where these two lives converge. We enter the action introduced as a dream state. What follows is pretty much off the charts. Mayhem, fire power, cameos by Sally Jessie Raphael, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Mother Teresa and The Infant of Prague. Durang suggests that the church, psychology and other traditional resources for clarity leave much to be desired. We laugh at much of this chaos simply because it’s so outrageous. Durang gives the ruminations of these two equal footing with what we night describe as conventional wisdom. It works for awhile and better than we might have reason to expect. After that, Durang just becomes too self-indulgent. He presents far more evidence than we truly need to get his points. One of Durang’s strengths is his gift to be gloriously, extravagantly subversive. One imagines him receiving a water-proof watch and diving into a swimming pool, fully clothed. Laughing Wild is a splendid, daffy excursion, but even excess has to (eventually) have its limits. Even insanity (for the sake of ntertainment) must concede to some kind of coherence.
L.I.P. Service presents Laughing Wild, playing March 10th-26th, 2016. The Firehouse Theatre, 2535 Valley View Lane, Farmers Branch, Texas 75234. (817) 689-6461 www.lipserviceproductions.info