Do you have a friend you think is hilarious and literally anything they do makes you laugh? These are the best people to be around. Every silence, every gesture, every word is preloaded with funny.
That’s the friend that Four Humors (from Minneapolis) is to Cincy Fringe audiences. We Gotta Cheer Up Gary is the eighth consecutive Fringe offering from this likeable band of ridiculous, merry men who, according to their website, “strive to create art that celebrates the humor, stupidity, and beauty of our world by letting the artist connect with the audience in a vulnerable and honest way.”
So while my Fringe-virgin companion perceived the black-and-white 1950s style instructional video as a “slow start,” many of the rest of the sold-out house were responding as though it was a gut-busting, knee-slapping short.
We Gotta Cheer Up Gary brings back Jason Ballweber and Ryan Lear with Mike Fotis (also a solo Fringe artist, this year performing You Seem Pretty Great) and Dario Tangelson as “Cheerologists,” men who have joined the Department of Joyful Resources to provide “Cheersultations” to raise one’s level of cheer. This super scientific methodology must be delivered one-on-one. On this occasion, Cheerologist Fotis looks up to realize he has 74 people, all re-named Gary — part of the super scientific method — to be interviewed and cheered up.
To top it off, head-of-lab Tangelson has informed the Cheerologists that one of them will be fired at the end of the day. After a few queries to discern the Cheer baseline, the Cheerologists begin to elevate our collective level of cheeriness with Four Humors-style antics including magic, music, snacks and improv. It should be noted that this family-friendly concept becomes decidedly, surprisingly adult when an improv prop is revealed late in the 50-minute show.
These contemporary stooges bring Gary to an end with Four Humors’ trademark finesse. The ridiculous turns into touching, poignant theater just long enough to hold you in a space of wonder, right before you are returned to Slapstick 101 for the final, cheer-inducing moment.
Stacy Sims is a novelist, playwright and activist. Her work has been produced in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and New York. She also enjoys writing about art and theatre.