Los Angeles Theater Review: MAX AND ELSA: NO MUSIC. NO CHILDREN. (Hollywood Fringe Festival)

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by Tony Frankel on June 23, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles

THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MAX AND ELSA

Greetings my lovelies!

Garrulous Greta here with some glorious news. You may remember not long ago I received a letter from a fan of The Sound of Music (and who isn’t in love with that glorious 1965 film?—and if you aren’t we don’t want to hear about it!). The reader of my equally glorious column could not understand the origins of Uncle Max max muggingDetweiler, friend to Captain Georg von Trapp and chaperone to Baroness Elsa von Schraeder. Who was this engaging sponger? Is this glib gossiper related to Georg (that’s pronounced “gay-yorg”)? Why do women love him but men aren’t threatened by him?

I responded that, quite possibly, screenwriter Ernest Lehman intentionally left it murky; it was up to the viewer to decide who Max is, and that “Uncle” is merely a term of endearment (it’s shocking that people don’t understand gallows humor, but I received some ghastly hate mail when I suggested that—were Max not such a pragmatic survivor—a pink triangle and yellow star would surely be part of his future wardrobe).

Well, darlings, no longer do we need to guess about dear Max. For last night at the Hollywood Fringe Festival I saw a most darling original play which chronicles some delicious scenes that we never got to see in the movie. Character motives are defined not just for Max, but Elsa, the Captain and Rolf Gruber, that hot, hot telegram delivery boy who did not age well in real life.

max & elsa plottingIn Max and Elsa: No Music. No Children., writers Mason Flink and Lindsay Kerns use just a smidgeon of actual dialogue from the movie to imagine the behind-the-scene escapades of the socialites and this charming barnacle. I imagine that those who have seen The Sound of Music, oh, 70 or 80 times, may have the best time of all; there are more inside jokes sprinkled throughout the 55-minute wonderment than I have with myself! But fear not you weirdos who only saw La Andrews and Company once or twice, this comedy spoof takes itself just seriously enough to engage everyone—and I loved it. Not since espying the Litzendorf Dancers executing the Ländler in those lemon-yellow lederhosen have I been quite so excited (well, perhaps “executing” is the wrong word given the nattering nabob of negative Nazis in the film).

There was a part of me hoping that someone would say, “Max, what happened to your pecker?” To which he’d reply: “It got caught. In Friedrich’s teeth.” But I’m glad our scrummy scribes actually avoid cheap humor and eye-rolling puns. Yes, Rolf (a riotous Matthew Gilmore) is now a petulant closet case, and the Captain (not-so-simpleton Frank Smith) a thickheaded social misfit, but the hoot-filled dialogue is fastidiously character-driven and at times downright serious. Both Max and Elsa, brought to vivid life by Clayton Farris and Megan Rose Greene, are wholly believable beings, not campy creatures.

max & elsa disdain 1

There is only one scene which didn’t fly: Max meets with the Mother Abbess (a cameo also played by Mr. Gilmore) to persuade her to persuade Maria to persuade the Captain to let the children sing at the festival. But I wasn’t persuaded—I mean, convinced. The character of the Mother Abbess is now a device, not a character with backstory, which makes her being played by a man in drag somewhat silly. So how do you solve a problem like this scene, huh? What’s next for this intrepid outing? Is it to be forever fringe fare or can Flink ‘n’ Kerns take it to the next level, possibly a two-acter? I’m chomping at the strudel to find out.

But definitely keep that flowing direction (by Flink) and that amazingly infectious scoring of guitar and whistling (again, Flink), which I want on CD posthaste. Meanwhile, this fabulous Flinkfest has fellows falling in line; tickets are selling like schnitzel at a biergarten. There’s no way to stop it, so check their site to see if an extension is nigh.

Ciao for now!

Garrulous Greta

everything in moderation

photos by Lindsay Kerns

Max and Elsa: No Music. No Children.
The Norton School
Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way in Hollywood
ends on July 26, 2015 (check for extension)
for tickets, visit Hollywood Fringe

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