Uninvited party guests aren’t always amusing. Particularly persistent ones.
But in Barry Kornhauser’s award-winning children’s comedy “Balloonacy,” a friendly red balloon is an entertaining party crasher.
The Old Man does little more than grumble in the wordless show. He flips through his newspaper and checks his calendar, only to discover it’s his birthday. He’s content to celebrate the occasion by himself but mysterious company comes calling. A red balloon tries the window, door and other clever entrances. The Old Man pushes the balloon away, but (with the help of a little static electricity) it returns to his side.
Jon Greene, who plays the Old Man, has written, directed and acted in many local productions, and this role is a return to his training in commedia dell’arte. The comedy here is less madcap circus clowning and more expressive theatricality, using movement to tell a story. The show allows children to respond to its humor, and young attendees can draw with sidewalk chalk before the show, which is staged in a whimsical environment inside the Lighthouse Building on Camp Street.
The co-starring role in “Balloonacy” is filled by seven red balloons with varying amounts of helium, allowing some to hover and others to rise. But the balloons function more like puppets than props, giving the show some of its whimsy.
“A little puppetry goes a long way,” Greene says.
Greene is accompanied by Brian Coogan, who plays keyboards, drums and melodica and adds other effects with a slide whistle and other noisemakers. Coogan created music for the show, and this production expands its use in telling the story. A veteran musician who’s a past member of Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Galactic spinoff Good Enough for Good times, Coogan also has provided music for productions by the now defunct Cripple Creek Theatre Company, including “Sueno” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” He also performed on tour with The Imagination Movers.
With this production, Greene launches children’s programming via his company, The Radical Buffoon(s).
For Le Petit Theatre, Greene produced two holiday pantos, a British style of family entertainment that often retells fairy tales for children and slips in jokes for adults. Among the feedback he received from those shows was a request to extend runs to between the week of Christmas and New Year’s. He’d like to target that time period for children’s shows, but he’s not producing works focused on the holidays.
Greene was inspired to create quality works aimed at kids by The New Victory Theater in New York. It’s located just off Times Square, but the company produces a year-round calendar of kids shows.
“We’re not talking down to kids,” Green says during a break in rehearsal. “We’re putting in the same level of effort as we did for (Harold Pinter’s) ‘The Dumb Waiter’ and ‘Mr. Burns (A Post Electric Play).’”