SUNDANCE 2021 PREMIERE – One of the things I’ve grown to miss during the Coronavirus pandemic is dirty, smoky, seedy clubs. I have always kept one foot staunchly in the theatre and comedy scene and this means many improv and stand up nights at questionable locations (hoping my car won’t get towed, ticketed, or totaled) watching the insanity unfurl on stage. Usually the crowds are small–I’ve been one of three people in many a grimy club, but in the case of Weirdo Night the room is empty. No audience, just madness.
Without an audience to play against, how does the wild comedy of Dynasty Handbag (alter ego of performance artist Jibz Cameron) land? Awkwardly & jarringly. Weirdo Night is named for the monthly performance event hosted at the Zebulon in Los Angeles, which as of now has been postponed indefinitely due to the Coronavirus (or, as Jibz shares on her website, “due to a virus called Coronavirus denial”). What better time to claim the empty space and wreak havoc than now? Filmed in August of 2020, Weirdo Night plays like a variety show comedy of errors, from the performance art to the bizarre stand up to musical interludes.
Strangely nostalgic and almost tragically sad in just the mere fact of its existence, Weirdo Night claws furiously at what once was normally abnormal, conventionally unconventional, interactive, live, living, breathing theatre. I’ve said from the beginning of this global health crisis that I don’t see a way back to “normal” and that what was “normal” wasn’t working for us, anyway. My heart breaks seeing talented, myriad performers down for the count and without a platform to do what they’ve done for ages. There’s a poignancy to Weirdo Night, hidden in the shadows behind the bright lights and just on the other side of the sweaty costumes and questionable stains. There’s a deep sadness to watching these performers reach out into the dark where there’s no one and nothing.
Perhaps Dynasty, and Jibz, has figured out something we haven’t–as Dill shared in To Kill a Mockingbird–“I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.” Well, I ask you–who’s laughing now? While we sit at home at our computer screens, living vicariously through Zoom and live streams–who is laughing at us now?
Weirdo Night is playing online now during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
6 out of 10