This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Butt Kapinski is the on-stage persona of Deanna Fleysher, a debauched, world-wearied, seen-it-all Los Angeles private-eye, with a high-collared raincoat, an unfortunate speech impediment, and a series of bwutal – brutal – murders to solve. But although there is a short cast-list of one, Butt Kapinski is far from a one-woman show; the audience are also assigned a host of supporting roles by Fleysher and their involvement gradually increases until they are practically performing the show themselves.
After establishing that Kapinski will be starring in a classic film noir – crime, corruption, and a detective determined to uncover the truth – Fleysher assigns one audience member the role of musical accompanist, an obligation he fulfilled with aplomb, humming and whistling a thoroughly varied score throughout.
Fleysher, always as Kapinski, then moves on to casting four or five as murdered corpses, another two as policemen, several as prostitutes (yours truly was yet again miscast as Lucinda, an irresistible blonde), and, particularly memorably, a dour, bearded Scottish gentleman as Kapinski’s love-interest, Lola. Fleysher’s humour is decidedly adult throughout, but it’s entertaining and amusing nonetheless.
As the show progressed, Fleysher’s easy confidence and ability to play off the audience’s reactions, coupled with the inherent humour of her character, soon puts all present at ease. “We’re all in this together”, seemed to be the overriding feeling, “so let’s all have a good time laughing at each other’s discomfort.” It’s surprising how witty the average punter can be with their inhibitions sufficiently lowered.
Indeed, this unifying goodwill becomes increasingly important as Fleysher has the audience perform increasingly embarrassing actions – singing, dancing, pretending to kiss, actually kissing, and even tying a half-naked Fleysher to a chair with duct tape. It is weird, disconcerting, and thoroughly hilarious to watch.
Fleysher spends most of her time prowling around the dispersed rows of seating, flitting from audience member to audience member, each silently praying that she does not alight upon them to perform the next episode in the barely lucid storyline. Dressed in a suit stuffed at the crotch and belly, and a long overcoat, Fleysher is illuminated solely by a flexible lamp she carries on her back, which dangles over her face and casts comically exaggerated shadows. It’s a neat idea, as she is able to reach up and twist the light around to illuminate audience members.
This is far from conventional comedy, but it is testament to the skill of Fleysher that the audience are able to engage with such an unusual concept wholeheartedly.