Lucas Caleb Rooney in Creation
(© Jill Jones)
Lucas Caleb Rooney in Creation
(© Jill Jones)
Creation: A Clown Show, which has just begun a six-week run at Midtown's Theater Five, aims for nothing less than having a man with a red nose re-enact "The Book of Genesis." Not surprisingly, the show is a difficult piece of work to nail down. It is equal parts smart and stupid, sometimes brilliantly on point and then self-indulgently repetitive. And for all its silliness, it is indeed reaching for something profound -- and lands its meaningful jokes often enough to deserve to be taken seriously.

This 75-minute show begins with the announcement by "The Voice" that the star is late because he forgot his costume. Then, a clown -- played by Lucas Caleb Rooney, who co-created the show with director Orlando Pabotoy -- ambles into view. When he sees the audience he screams in fright and tries to run away. Slowly, he gains his composure when he realizes he's in a theater and there's a show about to take place. Excited like a little child, he takes a seat in the first row and cries out for the action to begin, all the while telling every one else to "shoosh." Then The Voice asks the clown his name. It's Timmy. Well, Timmy is the understudy, except no one is more surprised to hear this than Timmy. Then, The Bible falls from the ceiling at Timmy's feet, and with the help of The Voice, our idiot/actor very reluctantly begins the play.

After a number of amusing attempts, Timmy discovers how to divide the day into light and dark. After that, he takes great joy in doing it constantly. He builds the sun and the moon (a round picture of Jackie Gleason from The Honeymooners) and hangs them up on each side of the stage. When it comes to creating the firmament, he misunderstands The Voice and comes up with a tin of "Firma Mints," joyously tossing them out to the audience in the first several rows. There are jokes, shticks, and nonsense galore as Timmy takes us through the first week of the world. The funniest sequence, by far, is Timmy's creation of the fowl. Of course, he doesn't know what fowl are until one of the onstage band members whispers "Birds." Without saying exactly what happens (we don't want to spoil the fun), suffice it to say that he deals with life and death in a comically outlandish way.

If you're going to hook into this show, then you'll have to gingerly accept the premise that Timmy is Mankind. The Shakespearean cliché prevails here that all the world's a stage and we are the players upon it. Creation also insists if God created us in his own image, then God must be a clown, because the human race is nothing if not a community of inspired fools.

As a piece of theater, the show is uneven but daring; as an acting vehicle for Rooney, it's a sparkler. His two cohorts on stage, musicians Peter Friedland and Javen Tanner, are dryly comic and add a great deal to the fun, and Samuel Stricklen as The Voice delivers several lines with sensational comic timing. Finally, while one wouldn't really consider this a show for children, there were several kids in the audience on the evening we saw the show. At the end, when Rooney said, "Goodnight," a little girl in the third row was inspired to call back, "Goodnight and sleep tight." That might be the greatest review he will ever get.