Flim-Flam. Comedy. Written and Directed by John Fisher. Theatre Rhino @ Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111.
flim-flam is either a noun: nonsensical or insincere talk, or a verb: swindle (someone) with a confidence game. There are elements of both in John Fisher’s dark comedy road trip plot of three desperate actors seeking work. It’s a sprawling piece that comically attempts to highlight serious issues in today’s social morality as seen through the eyes of struggling performers. While there were kernels of possibility here and there, I found the humor awkward, bordering on distasteful and in the end I felt flim-flammed.
Fisher has the histrionic gay character down pat. It’s an easily identifiable and often humorous stereotype he’s perfected over the years. His character Aaron, however, starts out optimistic, but becomes more and more angry and bitter until at the finale, he’s a reprehensible child abuser who’s murdered and eaten by carrion. His fellow actor Endin (Daniel Chung) is lured into performing in porn videos by a disreputable auteur has-been director Harrible (Kevin Copps). Their pal Dobbins (Donald Currie) convinces them that there’s work out there in small town America, and off they go on a fantastical adventure to Hollister, California.
There’s too much going on here: from the actor’s disillusionment, failure and struggles, to the crazies they meet in Hollister, to their conversion to unsympathetic hucksters. There’s some unseemly comedy at the expense of Zika babies and some hard to swallow racial stereotyping that when exaggerated becomes funny, but not funny enough here. There’s dick and doody jokes, annoying sound effects by the actors between scenes and too many ideas to distract the audience attention.
Flim-Flam doesn’t play out like a Marx Brothers sendup and doesn’t have the smarts of say a Cukor or Capra comedy. Low brow is fun at times, but this production aims higher and ultimately fails.
Performance run through March 18th www.theatrerhino.org 800.838.3006