Weeping Spoon Productions, creators of this season's hits Alvin Sputnik and BRUCE, present their newest show, The Ballad of Frank Allen. It follows the unusual adventures of the lovelorn Al Lafrance (played by St John Cowcher), and the eponymous lab janitor (played by Shane Adamczak) who lives in the former's beard after being shrunk by a scientific accident.
This is the delightfully-absurd premise for the flourishing of an unlikely camaraderie between the bearded loner and his tiny beard hitch-hiker, as they navigate together the troubled waters of Al's love life, through a bevy of hilarious miming, questionable song lyrics, and heartfelt soliloquies. Frank demonstrates an immediate fondness for Al, earnestly attempting to aid his romantic pursuit of the lovely Christina by violently manipulating the strands of the latter's impressive soup strainer, a la Ratatouille.
The play requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but both Adamczak and Cowcher ensure that the audience are in on the silliness, with repeated improvisational asides to both the audience and each other. Adamczak's host of silly characters and hair-grasping miming keep the comedy's pace moving, while Cowcher's poignant moments give the play a healthy dose of humanity in an otherwise absurdist performance.
At times the play can seem like an overwhelmingly tenuous series of scenarios, but Adamczak's storytelling ability ably manages to tie all the threads together into a satisfying and complete experience, with an excellent use of chronological shuffling to inject tension into the progression. Cowcher plays an extremely capable straight man, and put-upon everyman, who provides the foundation for the performance's pathos. Though his beard renders him a less than believable Catherine, even with a pretty pink ribbon.
The Ballad of Frank Allen is equal parts buddy comedy, absurdist sci-fi and endearing rom-com. Against expectations, it manages to marry all of these disparate qualities into a thoroughly enjoyable theatre experience.
If nothing else "I Got Shot in the Leg with a Laser Today" will no doubt soar to the top of popular music charts around the country.
For show times and to book tickets, see the Fringe guide.