The Lapsburgh Layover
Welcome to Lapsburgh, a small Eastern European nation with great skiing, beautiful beaches, an about-to-boom vacation timeshare market, an ancestral mythology that revolves around killer frogs, and convenient coordinates for long-distance flights in need of refueling. That's where we come in, guided into Ars Nova by Philadelphia's The Berserker Residents as though disembarking from a plane, customs forms, jetway noise, incomprehensible foreign airport signage and all. For the 90 minutes of The Lapsburgh Layover (through September 24), a four-Lapsburgher welcoming committee aims to entertain its unwitting guests with a pageant that mixes local history and a hilarious noir crime play-within-the-play one of them wrote titled Detective Mickey and the Case of What Happened at Club Regard, and set in "Connecticut City."
Lapsburgh's fictional country and its inhabitants invite our condescension from the get-to: a banner above the town hall-like stage declares, practically begs, "Welcome Home?" Ingratiated through such quaint over-enthusiasm, like prompting the audience for a "show of hands" when no question has been asked, we're then presented with an outrageous deconstruction of the quintessentially American hard-boiled detective plot that finally dovetails nicely with the increasingly sci-fi events occurring in Lapsburgh. Along with tongue-in-cheek Borat-esque near-eastern Orientalism and crime novel parody, The Berseker Residents and director Oliver Butler (of Brooklyn's The Debate Society) add to the genre-mashing snippets of backstage drama, an Arrested Development-caliber magician duel and seriously the best (analog) PowerPoint presentation ever.
The four actors, who adopt vaguely Greek accents as Lapsburghers only to revert to more simply stylized film noir tones in Detective Mickey scenes, are very strong. The three male actors ham it up while singing Miley Cyrus in drag (Justin Jain), soliciting audience participation for a puppet performance (Bradley K. Wrenn) and teaching us how best to kill a primordially evil Lapsburgh bullfrog with cutlery (Dave Johnson). But it's Leah Walton as Zelda Tre'Force—who, according to her fictional bio, is "most famous in all of Lapsburgh for my great history as an actress for stage and films, and for my numerous marriages"—who steals the show. Too big a star to take on any character other than herself, even in the detective story subplot, Zelda eventually goes Ripley on the apocalyptic frogs. Amidst many riotous laughs, Lapsburgh manages moments of quieting earnestness and palpable sadness near its conclusion. This may be the only layover you'll ever wish were extended.
Photo Ben Arons