Though Iranian cinema has been all the rage among cinephiles for as long as the Khomeini regime has been cracking down on its filmmakers, the country’s vibrant ex-pat theater practitioners across the U.S. have gone virtually unnoticed. Enter the Brick Theater in Williamsburg to remedy the discrepancy. From now until March 26th you can catch a vast array of productions that reflect the diversity of Persian culture itself: political protests and surreal comedies, live actors and shadow puppets, dance and video (and yes, even a couple of films) are all represented at this year’s Iranian Theater Festival.
The Brick Theater (#1–10 of 2)
As the economy crumbles all around us, Depression-era nostalgia is in the air. One of this summer’s highlights for me was spending a gorgeous August evening watching a free screening of Duck Soup on a boat docked on the Hudson, courtesy of Cinebeasts. (This cool little collective had teamed up with the Lilac Preservation Project to raise funds to restore the good ship Lilac, built the same year the Marx Brothers classic hit screens.)
And now there’s the New York Clown Theatre Festival at the Brick, running from September 3 - 26. Among the whopping 26 shows and cabarets, from an international array of performers, presented this year is “Diz and Izzy Aster – Vaudeville’s Late Bloomers,” which I caught on a double bill with “Ferdinand the Magnificent!” Diz and Izzy are the Burns-and-Allen type creation of multi-talented Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell—who sing, strum, and slapstick their way through familiar ditties, including a “new song by a young starlet” named Judy Garland. (Technically, Izzy plays “Over the Rainbow” on a musical saw.) Ferdinand the Magnificent, on the other hand, is a genuine big-nosed, diaper-wearing clown clad in an obnoxious, neon-pink bodysuit. Resembling a Dodo bird, this alter ego of puppeteer and musician Nick Trotter is a descendant of none other than Harpo Marx, and communicates mostly through physical gestures and the small cowbell tied about his waist.