Reviewed by Martin Denton
June 22, 2003

(To see the original review, click HERE and scroll down )

 

Fallout Follies is a clown show about the improbable subject (for a clown show) of a man who lives in a bunker following a nuclear holocaust and who may well be the last surviving human on Earth. Billed as a "postapocalyptic one-man variety show," it imagines how this fellow might pass the time all on his own with just a few seemingly random objects to keep him company. Company, as it turns it, is the thing he most desperately craves; and now that we come to the point, we understand that a clown show is perhaps the only way to tell this story: the ineffable sadness of such deep longing and loneliness might feel slight done as tragedy, but played for smiles it breaks our hearts.

At least it does in the remarkably capable hands (and feet, and head) of Devon Hawkes Ludlow. He's a young actor-dancer-mime-puppeteer from New Mexico who has developed this beautiful show with director Jeffrey A. Lewonczyk. He's got a wonderful, open face and an amazingly pliant body that bends to the whims of his apparently boundless imagination. A red clown nose and a neat white shirt, placed around one leg, transform into a delightfully stuffy companion who, after downing a bottle of booze, is happy to woozily play the other leg like a violin. A hand, wrapped in a white dishtowel, becomes a soulful coloratura singer. And the singular Ludlow body readily finds itself home to at least one other personality, as the performer stages convincing fights with himself and even, in one of the show's most hilarious set pieces, plays a deadly earnest game of Checkers with himself.

But Fallout Follies is more than just a collection of inventive comedic bits (though it absolutely is that): What makes this play special—indeed, what makes it a play—is Ludlow's thoughtful attention to creating and developing a believable, bittersweet Everyman, coping with the unthinkable quandary of being quite possibly the last man in the world. We understand almost as soon as we meet him that a modest little plant—the only other organism in sight—has become his most important possession. This chap craves LIFE—he searches for it on the makeshift Gilligan's Island radio that he listens to fitfully; he creates it ad hoc out of body parts and tools with his impromptu and endless anthropomorphizing. His respect for his one fellow living creature is affirming and tender.

And instructive: Fallout Follies, for all its ostensible lightheadedness, traffics in the most profoundly serious subjects, and proves remarkably apt in its conclusions. We can learn a lot from this sweet, sad little guy, forced to play Estragon and Vladimir all on his own, and entirely unsure that a Godot is ever going to turn up.