EFR - Reviews of Party In The USA!

Party In The USA!

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Henry Holmes

at 09:50 on 2nd Aug 2014

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Russian folk tales, strudel and a keytar form a small part of the acid-fuelled non-linear finance trip that is Party in the USA. With elements of satire, physical theatre and dance, it’s autobiographical new writing that debuted in Manhattan last year that manages to be hilarious and utterly unpredictable while still making genuine satirical points about the genuinely ridiculous scenario of the 2008 financial crash.

We’re thrown headfirst into the world of Jeff, a temp at Deutschebank inexplicably living in a penthouse suite of the Plaza Hotel. Then, via Lederhosen, an Anarchist squat and Barack Obama, the world’s economy is maybe saved, maybe not; the plot really is not the most important part of the show. The inspired staging, veiled references to all corners of pop culture and what is actually fairly detailed anti-capitalist rhetoric add up to a wildly entertaining show with about as much as you could want.

What makes the show even more special is that there’s a lot more on offer than just the really strong comic acting. There’s a live drummer cum keytarist who is on the fringe of being a character but you really can’t be sure; this adds to the general aesthetic of the audience not quite being sure what kind of show they’re watching. At one stage, Kevin the Drug Dealer brought a four-pack of beers out and handed them out to the audience. The show mentions frequently the sponsorship of the show by Bud Light Lime, satirising the atmosphere of product placement that goes hand in hand with the reckless attitudes of the bankers depicted. In addition to this there are projections interspersed throughout the show going on in the background, adding both to the psychedelic aesthetic and the general multimedia immersion of the performance.

Overall this was a wonderfully crafted show. The breadth of characters was spectacular, from Laura Moss’ authoritarian finance executive with a heart of gold Berti to Eric Clem’s effortlessly confident Aaron, with each of them finely tuned to be a truly awful person while still being still very relatable, evoking the writing of Brett Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh. The staging, sound design and lighting design worked perfectly together with choreography that was so anarchic that it must have been planned down to every little detail, leading to what was the perfect conglomeration of drug-addled William S. Burroughs-esque disorder and very effective satire. In doing this it was truly a microcosm for the Fringe, in being very clever, very chaotic and very funny, which all adds up to it being a definite highlight of the festival so far.

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Anna Grace Symington

at 10:03 on 2nd Aug 2014

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Aggressively energetic from start to finish, Party in the USA! explores the 2008 global economy collapse through the eyes of acid tripping Jeff. This show is both exciting and confusing in equal measure. If it were a song it would be a catchy one with a fast tempo and a heavy beat that you don't quite know the words to. It succeeds both as a sort of comedy of the absurd and as a mocking indictment of the American economic systems.

Although the performance moves rapidly from scene to scene, the plot does not keep pace. Time in the play does not progress chronologically. Events happen and un-happen, days are lost, and past events are narrated into the performance out of turn. While one might be tempted to try and keep track of time events at first, it soon become apparent that the uncertainty is intended.

The show is comprised of various plots and sub plots as well as allegorical play-like sketches within the play. The parallels to the real world in 2008 on the brink of economic collapse exist through internally constructed parallels of plots and sub plots, ever-threatening to collapse into one another and seeming to merge and diverge with urgency and increasing desperation.

As a physical theatre group, JV Squad made full use of the stage. They danced and ran about the space with manic enthusiasm. Their movements lacked slickness, however and there was a slightly jarring crudity to some of the comedic parts of the show. But this lack of subtly also fed back into the overall impression of a nation of excess facing impending doom.

All the actors played their parts with an apt liveliness. Lead character, John Gasper as Jeff, portrayed the destructive effects of attempting to remain sane when everyone else is insane with convincing angst. Also noteworthy was Eric Clem's performance as Aaron. With his charm and gravitas he seemed to dominate the room whenever present.

On stage, a desk and two chairs were the only furniture. These props seemed to move about the stage as much as the actors, contributing to the sense of insecurity that prevails throughout the play. The live drummer in the corner, providing excellent sound effects and a backing beat, completes the weirdness of the psychedelic drug culture of the naughties that characterised the play.

The Udderbelly was certainly the right place for this mad performance. With its bizarre upside down inflatable purple cow as a land mark, the venue was as bonkers as the show.

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