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Four Clowns is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be human. Follow four clowns - sad, mischievous, angry and nervous - as they lament and reminisce about their past. As the old adage goes, ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ but laughter comes most earnestly when reflecting on past sorrows. As the clowns tell their tales of woe and elation from childhood to adulthood we discover that they are all the same...and so are we.

Four Clowns conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma

June 2012 @ 2012 Hollywood Fringe Festival @ Open Fist Theater
February 2012 @ South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA)
January and July 2012 @ Actor’s Circle Theater with Coeurage Theater (Los Angeles, CA)
September 2011 @ 2011 San Francisco Fringe @ Exit Theater
September 2011 @ Insurgo Theater Movement (Las Vegas, NV)
August 2011 @ 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival
July 2011 @ Neo-Futurists Theater (Chicago, IL) – July 2011
July 2011 @ Chopin Theatre (Chicago, IL) – July 2011
July 2011 @ Indy Fringe Theater (Indianapolis, IN) – July 2011
July 2011 @ Space 55 (Phoenix, AZ) – July 2011
May 2011 & 10/11 @ Sacred Fools (Los Angeles)
March 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse - March 2011

starring Alexis Jones as Sad Clown
Kevin Klein as Mischievous Clown
Raymond Lee as Angry Clown
Amir Levi as Nervous Clown
and pianist Mario Granville

Costume Designer Cat Elrod 
Make-Up Designer Amy Kubiak 
Lighting Designer Daniel Bergher and Kalen Cobb 
Props Designer Natalie Rich

June 2010 @ The Farm with Alive Theatre (Long Beach, CA) June 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival @ Art/Works Theater

starring Alexis Jones as Sad Clown
Kevin Klein as Angry Clown
Amir Levi as Nervous Clown
Quincy Newton as Mischievous Clown and pianist Ellen Warkentine

Costume Designer Cat Elrod 
Make-Up Designer Amy Kubiak
Lighting Designer Daniel Bergher
Props Designer Natalie Rich

REVIEWS: Four Clowns

George Heymont, Huffington PostSeptember 19, 2011 @ San Francisco Fringe

The Four Clowns troupe recently ended a summer tour to Phoenix, Chicago, St. Paul, and Indianapolis with appearances at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. While their style can best be described as aggressively athletic and hilariously inappropriate. the element of surprise kicked in way before the performance. As they audience entered the Exit Theatre, they encountered a handsome young black man seated in front of an electronic keyboard who proceeded to “have at” a piano reduction of George Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue.

What made Mario Granville’s performance so interesting was not just the fact that he is the group’s musical director. At the age of six, Granville became almost completely deaf. Following reconstructive surgery to fix his hearing, he began to teach himself to play the piano at the age of seven. By eight, he had developed a passion for Beethoven and begun to perform his music regularly.

By 10, Granville had composed his first classical song and, by 11, had begun to write longer pieces.Over the years (although he has never worked with a piano teacher), Granville has developed a style built on a combination of classical technique and what he describes as “inescapable present day modality shaped by a tumultuous emotionality.” No amount of missed notes can hide his virtuosity.

Conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, the structure of Four Clowns is simple. Four clowns enter onto a stage singing the refrain to a theme song. They are: Angry Clown (Raymond Lee), dressed in bright red, Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), dressed in blue, Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein), dressed in purple and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi), dressed in yellow.

This is not, however, your typical clown act. The group’s donor levels have been named in honor of Charlie Chaplin, Andy Kaufman, Yorick, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, and Slava.

The Four Clowns show is broken into three segments: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each segment contains several quick skits in which roles (father, mother, big brother, coworker, boss, etc.,) may be prewritten or arbitrarily assigned to any performer. The humor is fast and furious, sometimes almost ferocious in its execution.

At the performance I attended, one woman (who, as the audience later learned, had made a $200 donation to the troupe) got a lap dance from Angry Clown that had the everyone convulsed in laughter.

From start to finish, Four Clowns uses high levels of energy, physical dexterity, and laser-like wit to entertain its audience. During certain parts of the performance I attended, Sad Clown chose to commiserate with a member of the audience in order to remind people that being a clown isn’t always as happy as one might imagine. (For a hilarious piece of writing, check out Alexis Jones’s post entitled Clown Car Chronicles: I Hate Jeremy Aluma.)

If I was more impressed by the work of Raymond Lee (Angry Clown) and Kevin Klein (Mischievous Clown), that’s only because at such a high level of craft and aggressive energy, they stood a hair’s breadth above Alexis Jones (Sad Clown) and Amir Levi (Nervous Clown). The bottom line? There is no holding back with these four performers. I eagerly await a chance to see their production of Four Clowns: Romeo and Juliet.

- George Heymont

Robert Avila, San Francisco Guardian - September 13, 2011 @ San Francisco Fringe

There’s a similar alchemy underway in director Jeremy Aluma’s fantastic 4 Clowns. Rowdy, irreverent, totally inappropriate, slightly dangerous, and very funny, the titular madcaps — wonderfully individual performances unleashed with fine ensemble precision by Alexis Jones, Turner Munch (u/s), Raymond Lee, and Amir Levi — take their unsuspecting audience through the phases of life, dwelling on all its hideous temporal suffering with a macabre glee, accompanied by the fancy piano work of Mario Granville. Morbid curiosity, however, proves an invigorating tonic, beating back despair with fierce gallows humor as only a crazed ejaculating demon clown can.

Richard Chin, Minneapolis Pioneer Press - August 7, 2011 @ Minnesota Fringe


Warning: this show is not for kids. And not for people creeped out by clowns. Sad Clown, Mischievous Clown, Angry Clown and Nervous Clown race through non-stop skits that might be described as the Life Sucks Circus depicting dysfunctional families, sex abuse, illness and suicide. But it’s funnier than it sounds. A lot funnier. These foul-mouthed, in-your-face bozos are skilled physical comics. Think Buster Keaton in a simulated oral sex scene. You’ll squirm in your seat and say “I can’t believe they’re doing that” while you’re laughing.

-Richard Chin

Kate Hoff, Twin Cities Daily Planet - August 5, 2011 @ Minnesota Fringe

I closed the evening with Four Clowns, in town from Los Angeles. I met them Tuesday night, because the dude who is billeting with us this Fringe (see him at HUGE tonight at 10!) caught a ride from Chicago with the clowns. They arrived during our National Night Out block party. After a quick restroom break, the Four Clowns crew (of six) started mixing and mingling with my neighbors, and helping out by consuming the remaining food. I had excited neighbors grabbing me to say, “These people are in a Fringe show! They just drove in!” Yes, I know! They just peed in my house!

These clowns are tight. Really, really talented. The material is bawdy, physical and over the top. (Except that of the pianist. He’s simply awesome. And self-taught. And handsome.) It pushes the limits (these are NOT clowns for children), but stops short of bludgeoning the audience with vulgarity. Bob deemed it in the top five Fringe shows ever. I want to see it again, because they really are amazing to watch, and I’m interested in how much of the show is improvised. Audience participation warning – you won’t be pulled on stage, but those sitting on the aisle or in the front row might have some clown interaction. Or, if you don’t fully understand when audience participation and commentary is appropriate and when you could just as easily shut up, that might bring increased clown attention. Scream random things at random times at your own risk.

Harvey Perr, Stage & Cinema– May 20, 2011@ Sacred Fools

The four clowns who give Four Clowns its title are, separately and together, the most hilariously funny quartet you are likely to spend time with in one theater. And, boy, are they eager to share their sense of fun with you, the audience. This kind of joyous give-and-take spreads pandemonium and pleasure and it’s so contagious you might not even notice that, behind the beautifully painted masks which hide (but not completely) their handsome faces, they have a deeply serious agenda. They want to give us, from a clown’s point of view, bristling commentary on the four ages of man (and four stages of death contained therein).

Which leads to an equally serious question: Why isn’t laughter enough?

Jeremy Aluma, the budding genius who conceived the piece in collaboration with his four wonderfully nutty cohorts – Kevin Klein (Mischievous Clown), Amir Levi (Nervous Clown), Raymond Lee (Angry Clown), and Alexis Jones (Sad Clown) – and his extraordinarily talented pianist/musical director Mario Granville (whose biography could use a show of its own), has driven up the stakes by creating not a Hellzapoppin or a Laugh-In, but a sour study of what’s wrong with the world and how comedy just possibly might help us survive its worst transgressions. Admittedly, I am quite a bit older than their targeted demographic, but the serious stuff, partly written, largely improvised, seemed to this reviewer to get labored and repetitive and to run out of steam before its two hours came to an end, and yet I couldn’t stop laughing for a single minute. In the end, it was the clowning that got to me, and just thinking about some of their shenanigans puts a smile on my face.

Laughter is enough.

- Harvey Perr

Amy Nicholson, Backstage - June 22, 2010@ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

Here be four clowns—Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Angry Clown (Kevin Klein), Nervous Clown (Amir Levi), and Mischievous Clown (Quincy Newton)—and as an announcer intones, they’ve lived, died, and resurrected, never changing, since “Before the earth trespassed across the sky.” Odd, then, that creator Jeremy Aluma then shows us the terrestrial agonies that shaped them: bad moms, torturing older brothers, horny schoolteachers. It’s clown catharsis as each directs the rest to re-enact their childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death in scenes that are skilled and true. Aluma may be saying that human pain is at once particular and universal; what’s certain is his cast is gifted, including musical director Ellen Warkentine as the one woman orchestra in the wings.

- Amy Nicholson

Lovell Estelle III, LA Weekly – May 16, 2011 @ Sacred Fools


Creator-director Jeremy Aluma’s performance piece made quite a splash during its run at last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. This latest incarnation, with some noticeable tinkering, is every bit as entertaining. The play blends music, dance, physical comedy and narrative performed by four archetypal clowns cum red noses and painted faces: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein), Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi). Accompanied by the commanding virtuosity of Mario Granville on piano, the clowns tell of the common and uncommon: nasty fights with siblings; a trip to the doctor that resulted in molestation, teenage angst, that special event known as a first date; a mom at home trying to cope with family issues. There is a lot of audience interaction that transpires, which adds to the fun. In one especially poignant moment, Lee opens a steamer chest (which is the only prop used) and finds a Christmas gift. What surprises most about this show is the ease and spontaneity with which the performers interact with one another and their manic energy, which at times seems to take over the stage. There is a fair amount of coarse language and X-rated material (not all of which is funny) so this isn’t a show for the kiddies.

- Lovell Estelle III

Robert Machray, Stage Happenings – June 3, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

One of the hits of last year’s Los Angeles Fringe Festival was a production, Four Clowns, conceived and written by Jeremy Aluma. The show won the Hollywood Fringe Award Best Physical Theatre. I am used to seeing some clowning at almost any Sacred Fools presentation but where Aluma found these four actors, Alexis Jones (Sad Clown), Kevin Kline (Mischievous Clown), Raymond Lee (Angry Clown), and Amir Levi (Nervous Clown) is a tribute to him and his dedication to the Art of Clowning. Apparently there are several clown schools as such in the Southland as well as master teachers in Commedia del Arte. These are some of the best clowns I have seen around, including clowns with the Cirque du Soleil.

The performance is really a series of sketches about the modern family and today’s society. We see kids abused, used, and beaten all the while trying to hold the family together. The housewife whose kids and husband are out of control, the teacher who molests his students, siblings trying to suppress each other. They do all this with immense good humor and an ability to throw care to the wind and jump into these sadistic routines with relish. Because they are clowns we can accept their antics but don’t bring the little kids, violence and profanity prevail. The whole affair has the appearance of improv, with clowns being assigned their parts for the various routines, I wonder is today’s abuser ever gets to play the victim although the actors stay pretty true to their character type. The physical mastery of these four actors is a joy to watch. . Not everything works but that may vary with each night’s audience.

After Los Angeles the troupe is traveling to the Minnesota Fringe and the San Francisco Fringe where I am sure they will do well. Then, they return to the Los Angeles to present Romeo and Juliet through the eyes of these four clowns; should be brutal and quite funny. A virtuoso of a pianist, Mario Granville, who played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue before the show began as well as some Scott Joplin, accompanies them throughout the evening. It will be interesting to see how they do having to follow a story line. Four Clowns plays on Fridays only at Sacred Fools Theatre until June 10th. GO!

- Robert Machray

Don Grigware, Broadway World - June 1, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

What starts out as a playful show with and about Four Clowns, ends up being a tiny masterpiece about the obscenities and atrocities of humanity. It’s not without joy, though, as there is much physical comedy with tumbles and pratfalls, but the emphasis seems to veer in the direction of violence and crude behavior. Its mission is clearly to make a life-affirming statement. As children play and start to hit one another innocently, a simple slap turns into a slug or punch and that punch encompasses bullying and abuse of others; aggression in its earliest stages can lead to all-out hostility and war. And it does with chaotic consequences. Like a caricature of life, Four Clowns leaves an indelible impression.

Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Angry Clown (Raymond Lee), Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi) are a frolicking foursome who come into the audience on a few occasions and get your reaction irregardless of whether you are a willing participant. It all starts at the beginning of Clown Creation with a series of rapid-fire sketches. One clown assigns the others roles, and kind of like a giant improv, each skit rolls forward with lots of energy, laughs and unexpected endings. Siblings opening Christmas presents, a single mom trying to control her children, a teacher trying to teach a student, a basketball game, doctor and patient, therapist and patients, a courtroom, a wife, her husband and his lover, etc. There are even a few original songs about being “Children”, the pains of “Adulthood”. Throughout, the piece reverberates with the ever-present torture that people inflict on one another, the kind that leads to armies and war. And…the show has its fair share of overtly sexual acts like masturbation and f—ing, so this is definitely adult fare, perfect for late night enjoyment.

Pianist Mario Granville is superb. He plays before the curtain goes up – and I mean, really plays, like Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” – and provides complete musical accompaniment, punctuating the clowns’ every move, throughout the show. Jeremy Aluma’s direction, to say the least, is nothing short of brilliant, like the piece itself.

The four actors are equally mesmerizing, each clown consistently maintaining his very own character trait – sad, angry, mischievous, nervous. Physically agile, intelligent, imaginative and clever, Four Clowns is a 90-minute non-stop explosion. Always observant and with razor-sharp wit, its form and exposition are totally unique and its content, an irreverent mirror of human nature.

- Don Grigware

James Scarborough, Huffington Post - March 9, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

The moment that the “Four Clowns” — Sad (Alexis Jones), Mischievous (Kevin Klein), Nervous (Amir Levi) and Angry (Raymond Lee) — appear on the bleak, black, and bare Long Beach Playhouse Studio stage, you realize there is nothing three-ring about this production.

The makeup, costumes and bulbous W.C. Fields noses may suggest ooohs and aaahs, purposeful mayhem and comedy that is physical and verbal, situational and improv. At heart, though, the evening makes the audience feel like a last-call bartender who serves four misfits who ache to tell the story of what’s it’s really like to be a clown, which, as we learn, is nothing more than the ability to turn pain into laughter.

The humor is all over the place. An older brother, for instance, sabotages his sibling’s first date, his date exchanges a hand job for a seat and then, when the swain can’t pay, she fellates the waiter. Depending on how seriously you take the Parental Advisory for Explicit Content tag, the episode is funny.

What makes the evening unique is that Jeremy Aluma, who conceives and directs the evening, doesn’t just string together a slew of salacious scenes — for that seems to be the common theme; it also gets the most laughs — for the sake of shock and aaah, he circumscribes them within the context of a story of how the archetypal clowns forged their identities.

This is not a circus, with a non-stop, sequential though unconnected array of bits and gags, this is a drama that focuses on the epic though squalid journey of our four heroes through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The result is as sobering as the voyage is outlandish.

Told with full speed ahead vignettes of every imaginable manner of dysfunction, the narrative is punctuated with physical humor (not just the expected punches and pratfalls, but a javelin hurled into a coach’s eye, a painful operation for cramps, a skeet shooting malfunction), audience-suggested riffs and musical numbers (including a saucy little piece on AIDS, cancer and dying babies). It explodes in your face.

Only afterwards, when you have a chance to reflect on — and not just respond to — what you’ve just seen do you realize that the trope of Sad, Mischievous, Nervous and Angry Clowns is the perfect way to present serious subject matter, namely, what goes into being human.

The Four Clowns obviously relish their roles. This enthusiasm makes their performances — and the evening — bristle, be it through movement, gesture, expression or voice. It’s easy to get caught up in their antics, to relate to one or more of them. You walk away with an appreciation of the cathartic effect that the production has on both the characters and on yourself.

Presented as a Monty Python-esque “And Now for Something Complete Different,” the production embodies a collaboration between the 81-year-old Playhouse, which provides the venue, and the itinerant Alive Theatre, which provides the content. It’s a boon for all concerned. Daring and energetic, weird and wonderful, the production makes you hope that the Playhouse can maintain its present momentum — and makes me wonder what Elaine Herman thinks. – James Scarborough

Daniel Boden, UCLA Daily Bruin – May 15, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

Clowns: More lighthearted than a unicorn, more frightening than the Chupacabra, they have the uncanny ability to both delight audiences and make them want to hide under their beds. While many label all clowns as uniformly and unquestionably creepy (this is perhaps the reason why no one took up my offer of a free guest ticket), the more discerning individual sees beyond the red nose and white face paint. At their essence, clowns navigate the tempestuous seas of human emotion, from ecstasy to depression, from deceit to belief.

“Four Clowns,” a performance piece conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, perfectly understands this basic characteristic of the clown. During the roughly 90-minute production, staged at the Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles, the audience follows four archetypal clowns representing anger, anxiety, sadness and mischief on their journey from childhood to death.

Structurally, “Four Clowns” is very easy to unpack. A musical number in which each cast member takes a solo introduces each phase of life. Four short dramatic vignettes follow, each scene focusing on a particular clown. Improvisation, audience involvement and physical gags break up the story line’s action, especially when clowns are preparing for their next scene. The predictable structure facilitates audience understanding of the narrative and fortunately does little to detract from the spontaneous and highly unpredictable contents of the show.

The musical numbers, perhaps, are the only exception to this rule. The cast sings well, and the lyrics are thematically meaningful as well as hilariously ribald. However, the songs’ verse-chorus structure lags in comedic pace when compared to the roller coaster of action and emotion in the acted scenes and improvised sketches.

As far as subject matter goes, “Four Clowns” is actually pretty depressing. Physically abusive brothers, sexually abusive teachers and psychologically abusive parents traumatize the clowns in childhood. Awkwardness and bullying mar their adolescence. Depression and disappointment close off their adult lives as they resign themselves to the last musical number’s chorus of “You’re born and then you die.”

Thankfully, the show never becomes a pity party. On the contrary, the loud, raunchy and violent tenets of clowning rarely allow the circumstances to take themselves seriously. A mother giving her daughter nothing but diet pills to eat is monstrous. A soldier who slaughters his own compatriots is shameful. Drug addiction and murder are deplorable. And yet the most resonant measure of social acceptability – laughter – indicates that the audience embraces the way that “Four Clowns” depicts these tragedies.

To their credit, Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Raymond Lee and Amir Levi are superb in their respective roles as Sad, Mischievous, Angry and Nervous clowns. No one actor plays the diva: They share the stage equally and command the audience’s attention. The on-stage pianist, Mario Granville, complements the quartet in their antics with great attention as almost all of his music is improvised to match the clowns’ unpredictable movements.

While the show is funny and fulfilling, any theatergoers need to understand that, despite the music and its fine dramatics, “Four Clowns” is still a clown show. It is loud, violent and vulgar. Pantomimes of fellatio, sodomy and hand jobs are almost too numerous to count. Profanity litters the actors’ lexicon. At times, the brassy content overwhelms the audience’s connection to the story. For the most part, however, it alleviates tension and makes the clowns’ plights more digestible.

Aluma truly has a winner in his hands with “Four Clowns.” The actors’ intense actions help them portray a wide breadth of emotions. And while the mostly harmless show might not appeal to all, there certainly is no need for Angelenos to hide under their beds.

- Daniel Boden

Kenneth Hughes, Flavorpill – May 30, 2011 @ Sacred Fools


Four Clowns gives freaky Freudian insight into each of us. These clowns are the filthiest, bawdiest, and the most emotionally unbridled freaks you’ll ever meet. Loaded with Tesla-coil amperage, the sad, mischievous, angry, and nervous clowns work hard dancing, leaping, moving, thumping, and grinding. The performers’ powerful physicality is joyous to watch, conveying a great deal of humor and mayhem. After they tell you about their childhood, adolescence, and finally, adulthood, you’ll be ready to go back to your own past — maybe even as a clown.

- Kenneth Hughes

Geoff Hoff, LA Theatre Review - May 21, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

Four Clowns is probably the sweatiest play I have ever seen. The four young actors in it expend more energy in an evening than most actors expend in their entire career. It is also almost dystopian in its view of the human condition, contains a lot of buggary and is hysterically funny. Be prepared to be confounded, to be embarrassed, to recognize your own life and the life around you, to be presented with every possible pain and petty evil the world can heap upon humanity, and to laugh. A lot.

Told though a series of vignettes with improvised bits between them to move from one to the next, four clowns, the Sad Clown, the Angry Clown, the Mischievous Clown and the Nervous Clown, move through the terrors and tragedies of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death. Along the way, they stop at young love, young lust, child abuse, parental favoritism, filial hatred, the abuse of power, alcoholism, drug abuse, war, the abuse of law and almost any other kind of abuse you can think of, the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and a couple of bare bodkins. There is even sweetness, although you know as soon as you see it, it will be dashed asunder somehow.

The evening begins with Mario Granville, a very accomplished piano player, entertaining us as we enter the theatre and chat amongst ourselves. He then heroically accompanies almost every moment of the show itself, occasionally suffering abuse at the hands of one or more of the clowns. After the lights dim, a commanding voice echos from the sound system and, in a twisted Dr. Seuss-like verse, sets the stage. Then the clowns gather in a kind of kick-line and sing a song extolling the joys of childhood, which include, incongruously, boobies.

There is much audience participation (bordering, at times, on audience abuse) but there are several through lines of stories; the dysfunctional family with a crazy mother who hates her daughter, the young man who worships his older brother who is really, really, really mean to him, the man who enters and makes his way through marriage and the corporate life of a working stiff, etc.

There is some inconsistency in the show; although the Mischievous Clown and the Sad Clown remain pretty much mischievous and sad through out, the Angry Clown and the Nervous Clown leave behind their archetypes more often than not, but that is a minor objection. Also, some of the improv aspects where pieces of a vignette are suggested by the audience don’t always work, although on the night I saw the show, the cure for the suggested disease “imploded penis” was nothing less than brilliant.

Each clown has his own trait and his own color, represented by his costume, his handkerchief, his makeup and any prop he pulls out of the community chest.

Each of the four actors brings a different energy to the piece, and they all add up to a very complete whole. They are all physically and comedically accomplished and their combined effort works surprisingly well. Kevin Klein plays the Mischievous Clown, all in purple. He plays the put-upon husband of the abusive mother, the abusive older brother, the young husband/corporate drone and several others, each with its own distinct form of dysfunction.

Alexis Jones is the Sad Clown, all in blue, appropriately, who is subtler than the others, quieter and not quite as manic, but what she brings to the whole is delightfully twisted. Her casual asides to a chosen audience member throughout the evening built to an hysterical crescendo. Raymond Lee is the Angry Clown, all in red. He has some amazing physical moments, both broad and subtle, and the genuinely sweet scene depicting new, young love is as charming as it is funny in it’s truth. Amir Levi is, perhaps, the most varied in his bits, the yellow Nervous Clown, he seems at times almost dangerous and the intensity and perfection of his comic timing wear you out from laughing.

The costumes, not mere clown suits but brightly ragged and appropriately surreal, were created by Cat Elrod. Special mention must be given to prop master Natalie Rich Miller, who had to find (or make) all those primary-colored props. The makeup, with each clown face subtly different from the rest, was by Amy Kubiak. It might be wise, however, to find a more robust brand in future as much of Ms. Kubiak’s artwork was sweated off twenty minutes into the show. The lighting design, which was simple and very effective, was by John Sylvain.

Jeremy Aluma developed and directed the show, which started at last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, was reprised recently in Long Beach and is about to embark on a tour of Fringe Festivals around the country. He brings to it a singular, if dark, vision and the broad and subtle, slapstick and intellectual, satirical and sophomoric humor evident throughout show his talent and versatility of thought.

- Geoff Hoff

Gregory Moore, Greater Long Beach - March 12, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

If the press release is to be believed, “Four Clowns is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be a human being.”

If you put the emphasis on the “a,” it’s true enough.

An opening voiceover basically tells us that these four clowns—Angry Clown, Sad Clown, Mischievous Clown and Nervous Clown—have existed forever in a sort of stasis, but now have come to life because of the audience. The basic idea is that these four emotions can combinatorially represent all the possibilities of human existence.

That this is playing fast and loose with humanity doesn’t matter much, since the meat of the play doesn’t really explore this idea. Rather, Four Clowns is a series of look-ins on the lives of four individuals at specific stages of their lives: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and a depressing demise (though senescence is not dealt with, interestingly enough).

Each of these four threads adumbrates the development of a damaged personality, one that is shaped through the enjoyment of and suffering through various life experiences. Angry Clown, for example, is subject to a sadistic older brother; Nervous Clown is molested by a primary-school teacher.

It’s not clear why all we see is their suffering, but that does not make Four Clowns a morbid show, not really. This is due to the comic exuberance of Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Amir Levi, and Raymond Lee (aided to perfection by pianist Mario Granville, who is more than mere accompanist). All four deliver inspired, athletic performances that get them sweating early in the show and rarely give them any chance to rest.

While the plot lines of the vignettes (Sad Clown’s mother programming her with the idea that she’s fat, Mischievous Clown’s antics as a successful trial attorney) are adequate to their purposes, when they take flight, it’s all in the how, the ways in which director Jeremy Aluma and cast have conceived how to get across the details, the vocalizations and pantomimes and absurd little flourishes that always give us exactly what we need to get the point even while our focus is on how funny the moment is.

The improvisational flow here is key, and the clowns constantly sprinkle the spontaneous within the structure, a flavoring that goes down so well because Aluma has quite consciously cooked it up that way. On the night I attended, the cast jumped so smoothly and so immediately on a gentlemen’s need to exit for the restroom that my companion swore this must have been a plant (which I later confirmed was not the case). Jones, Klein, Levi, and Lee physically and verbally maneuver through the show like four robots sporting individualistic programming but a common goal, each moving toward that end with unique and cooperative perfection.

Warning: These clowns are foul-mouthed. This is not a kids’ show, on any level. But for all the cursing, it never seems gratuitous, in that it’s always genuinely funny. When these clowns cuss or go off script or break the fourth wall, it always feels like you couldn’t have planned it any better.

Groundbreaking human truths? Probably not. Funny? Oh yeah.

- Gregory Moore

Stephanie Forshee, Campus Circle – June 21, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

The playful, troublemaking “4 Clowns” offer a night out you won’t soon forget. The “4 Clowns” are thrillingly unique, and you could possibly leave asking, “Did that really just happen?”

The show follows hints of structure, but the majority is merely improvisational. After every few scenes, the clowns actually break into spontaneous song. Among the crowd favorites are the impromptu tunes seemingly titled, “Cancer and Dying Babies” and “From Childhood to Adulthood: Adolescence.”

“4 Clowns” has moments of extremely clever humor followed by what I can only describe as dead airtime. Yet, despite the few quiet times of discomfort, there are a multitude of laughs.

The Sad Clown (Alexis Jones) is by far the funniest. Her timing is perfect, and she has the whole package. The comedienne has a lot of tricks up her sleeve and brings some remarkable one-liners to the show.

The Nervous Clown (Amir Levi) is also adorable, and you continually want to give him a hug. The Mischievous Clown (Quincy Newton) and the Angry Clown (Kevin Klein) both remain true to their archetypes and are full of refreshing energy.

The most impressive of the group is actually the brilliant musical director, Ellen Warkentine. With no score to play by, she improvs on the piano, clarinet and melodica.

- Stephanie Forshee

Susan Burns, Melpomene Blogs Back – May 28, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

Do not hire these clowns for your child’s birthday party. In fact, do not allow these clowns near ANY children. EVER. These four clowns embody the worst elements of humanity and force the audience to look directly at them, unflinchingly, for an hour and a half. It is disturbing, uncomfortable, intense and hilariously funny.

At 11pm on a Friday night leading into a three-day weekend, the Sacred Fools Theater is packed with twenty-something hipsters. Booze in hand, they are chatting loudly about their own projects, plays in the making and bands being formed. The buzz of conversation is heavy competition for the boisterous tunes coming from the piano player (Mario Granville) who’s been playing for tips on stage since folks walked through the door. These are wide-eyed intellectuals, amped to solve the world’s problems through their art. And then come the clowns.

As the Voice of God booms through the theater, setting the scene in twisted rhyme, the clowns assemble center stage to introduce the audience (though rambunctious song) to what will be the first of three acts: Childhood. This set-up will be repeated for Adolescence and Adulthood as the evening progresses. They periodically announce series of tragedies that have befallen their lives to foreshadow scenes that will later arise. These are scenes of abuse of every sort, and of hatred, sex, murder, drug use and suicide. Occasionally, a clown will find himself in a tender moment more sweet and real than any of the harshness witnessed in the evening…but even this is cringe-worthy because there is no expectation for it to end in anything other than horror.

Providing structure within the chaos, the clowns are color-coded with defining character traits reminiscent of Commedia dell’arte. The traits become a bit inconsistent as the show goes on, however. The Nervous Clown (Amir Levi), in particular, doesn’t seem to hold on to his nervousness after Childhood – although the work that he does, trait notwithstanding, is some of the most impressive in the group. His characters are often manic, but they vary wildly and believably between sex fiends and innocents. The entire cast is immensely talented and are every bit as entertaining with their vocal skills as they are with physical comedy. The Sad Clown (Alexis Jones) is quieter and more childlike throughout the show, resulting in an even more twisted performance. Ms. Jones’s character is haunting; she is the one who will follow you home when the show is over. The Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) does some amazing things with movement and facial expressions, at one point completely overcoming his garish make-up to sweetly embody a young boy in love. The Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein) excels at playing various abusers without making them all feel like the same character.

Did I mention it was funny? No, really, it is. Despite (and maybe because of) the heavy nature of the material, you will belly laugh at the jokes, the physical humor and the absurdity of it all. The clowns will force you to laugh at the worst things in society, the worst things in yourself and your history. It’s brutal catharsis. The bottom line is if you don’t shy away from vulgar comedy and you enjoy confrontational theater, this show is handmade for you.

- Susan Burns

Barnaby Hughes, Socal – May 18, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

If you thought Sasha Baron Cohen’s films “Borat” and “Bruno” were funny, then you might like “Four Clowns.” What the controversial comic and these four clowns have in common is a taste for the tasteless, for humor that pushes the boundaries so far out that you probably shouldn’t be laughing, but because the humor is so infectious, you can’t help but laugh. These guys don’t just use foul language to great effect, they simulate sexual acts that are crude and violent, as well as many other non-sexual violent acts. With humor so dark, “Four Clowns” can only be shown late at night to adult-only audiences. The late-night crowd at Sacred Fools, however, is not your typical theatre-going audience. They’re a young, hip and lively audience, hungry for all of the outrageous antics that these clowns can dish out.

“Four Clowns” is conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. There is no ‘writer’ in the traditional sense, since “Four Clowns” is a somewhat improvised affair. The clowns have definite personas – sad (Alexis Jones), angry (Raymond Lee), nervous (Amir Levi) and mischievous (Kevin Klein) – but even these are sometimes set aside during the skits they perform. A basic narrative structure is provided by the three progressive stages of life portrayed by the clowns: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Song introduce each stage of life, which contain an array of singing styles, from unison to harmony to solo. Typically, each clown sings a verse alone and all sing the refrain. As the song lyrics cannot be completely improvised, they contain some of the cleverest comedy in the show.

While the four clowns all come onto the stage initially wearing jackets, along with ties, suspenders, saddle shoes and the requisite clown make-up, throughout the remainder of the play, only one clown at a time wears his or her jacket. Wearing a jacket signifies being in charge of the action. Therefore, at the conclusion of each song and skit, Mario Granville (pianist and musical director) signals the transition by playing a bell-like jingle. One of the clowns then dons his or her jacket and assigns roles to the others. Most of the skits are centered around family life, so roles typically include father, mother and brother, occasionally expanding to include teacher, waiter and girlfriend. In one early skit, the nervous clown is sexually molested by his teacher, played by the mischievous clown, during his first day of class. And this is no isolated instance of the clowns’ disturbing humor. Some of the most notorious skits are reserved for adolescence. In one domestic dinner-time scene, the sad clown is left hungry because her mother accuses her of being fat and so refuses to feed her. Or in a dating scene, the angry clown’s girlfriend, played by the sad clown, is ready to have sex at the drop of a hat, and not just with her date. By the very outrageousness, these skits expose society’s ills, decay and pretensions. In a daring display of irony, the clowns’ very masks serve to unmask and to act as a mirror, forcing us to confront our own sex-and-violence-obsessed culture. When we laugh, we are ultimately laughing at ourselves.

Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Raymond Lee and Amir Levi are an immensely talented ensemble. As mentioned, they can act, they can sing, they can dance and they can clown around like nobody’s business. They’re fearless, putting their whole souls into performances that are manage to be both profoundly provocative and side-splittingly funny. It’s obvious that the four clowns enjoy putting on the show. IAlexis Jones tried desperately hard to suppress her laughter at times. The mischievous clown certainly got carried away with his violent antics, as did the nervous clown, with his forays into the audience. Part of the fun for them, to be sure, is to see how their audience will react and if they can become involved and implicated in the show’s story. Multiple times throughout the evening clowns asked for suggestions from the audience, ranging from how to punish one of the others to what kind of sport they should play.

When a new audience member arrived halfway through the performance, all of the clowns stopped their skit and berated him for his tardiness. And one cannot neglect to praise Mario Granville, whose piano playing and musical direction provides momentum and texture to the performance as a whole, not to mention providing incidental music between the skits and accompaniment to the songs. “Four Clowns” is not for those who like polite, family-friendly entertainment, but for those who like to be alternately outraged and amused, there can be no better way to spend Friday night.

- Barnaby Hughes

Colin Mitchell, Bitter Lemons - March 22, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

While Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatter’s, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers, turn around and say “good morning” to the night, for unless they see the light, but they can’t and that is why, they know not if it’s dark outside or light.”

Watching Alive Theatre’s production of “Four Clowns” at the Long Beach Playhouse last weekend, I was reminded of these sublime song lyrics from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s masterpiece of pop, “Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters”. Why? Because of the incredible collision of light and darkness that “Four Clowns” illustrates and how that collision does so well to embody humanity in all its flaws and all its foibles.

This was the second time I’d seen this show, the first being last year’s Fringe Festival, and I’m happy to say that the show continues to grow. For the better. I’m also happy to say that this piece, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, and performed with total commitment and absolute brilliance by Alexis Jones as Sad Clown, Kevin Klein as Mischievous Clown, Raymond Lee as Angry Clown and Amir Levi as Nervous Clown, with live piano accompaniment from Mario Granville (a show unto himself), is a further testament to how good LA Theatre is, and how good it can be. Because this piece of living theatre does not yet seem finished to me. And I find that to be a good thing. For all its entertainment value – and there is plenty – the show still lacks two things, in my opinion, a clear narrative through line, and, well, hope.

Now when it comes to the former lack, I’m aware that “clown shows” often lack a clear narrative, allowing for a more scattershot, fluid rhythm within a loose structure. It’s the nature of clowning, really. The show, however, does not lack structure. It uses the four stages of life, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death, and then plays scenes within each of those stages, exploring the many intricacies of each stage. And it does this successfully. There are glimmers of a recognizable narrative, something that seems to have definitely been worked on in the interim from the Fringe to this production. There are family characters who appear and re-appear at different stages of their life, and there is some “growth” in those characters and in their relationships to each other. But it’s nothing that we can hang our hat on. There is no setup, build and payoff. And again, let me emphasize, as is, the show works. Its hybrid tone of combining improv and structured set pieces within its loose structure is a wonder to watch, and the show never lacks in entertainment. Nevertheless, although there are moments of poignancy here and there, there are not enough for me. There is not enough yet for me to emotionally invest in these clowns, and the stakes never really rise in a satisfying way. I remember seeing Bill Irwin and David Shiner’s “Fool Moon” years ago on Broadway and I was left with a similar feeling; astounded by the skill and entertainment, thoroughly entertained, but wanting to be moved more, wanting something to invest my emotions in, wanting. Now on the latter lack, the show’s lack of hope, this is simply a personal aesthetic of mine. I recognize that fully.

There’s no getting around the fact that “Four Clowns” is bleak. Bleaker than Bleak, really. Black, actually. Pitch black. Again, I understand that this is another fundamental of the clown archetype, a single figure standing tall in the face of tragedy, not fully aware of why or how, allowing us the audience the opportunity to laugh at his absurd attempts to survive and give meaning to his life. This quality “Four Clowns” has in spades. But what it lacks, is hope. Again, there has been some development in this area, as the four clowns seem to find some humanity in themselves in the end. This is exemplified by their removal of their clown noses at the end. But this doesn’t have the affect that it should. To put it mildly, I don’t care, because I didn’t know that’s what they were striving for, humanity. Maybe they didn’t either? Again, the lack of a clear narrative through line rears its ugly face. But the bleakness of the piece, now that’s another matter altogether. Clearly, this is a choice, and to be fair it is a strong and consistent unrelenting choice. In that vein, it succeeds: life is hard and all we can do is really survive. Fine. But again, I was hoping for even a glimmer of hope, something, anything. But not in this show. I will re-iterate, this is simply a personal preference of mine, I love dark comedy, tragedies, but for me storytelling is not just about showing an audience how awful life is – most of us already know that – it’s about offering tools to deal with that predicament. “Four Clowns” offers one alternative, survive. And maybe that’s enough for them, but not for me. Great. I wasn’t going to actually “review” this piece, now look what I’ve gone and done. Hey, it wasn’t really a “review”, right, more like a “social comment”? Heh.

The actual Lemon Meter reading of the show can be found. Listen to the professionals, not me. In the final analysis, this is a more than worthy show, original, filled with incredible performances, highly entertaining, and guided by a strong, unique voice and vision. Go see it at Sacred Fools. They’ll be running May 13 through June 10, late night shows at 11pm, Friday nights only. ”Four Clowns” next stop is various Fringe Festivals across the country, including Minnesota and San Francisco. Don’t miss this opportunity to see these wacky bunch of Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatter’s saying good morning to the night.

Elton & Bernie probably had no idea that they’d written the liner notes for a clown show. Being the clowns that they are, how could they?

Nancy Woo, Examiner - March 20, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

Four Clowns is a live theater experience that will leave you hurtin’. As in, most of us are probably not used to truly non-stop laughter, though the phrase is thrown around like a fake smile. Like, welcome to Chuck E. Cheese, home of non-stop fun, but also bullies and kids peeing in the ball pen. Or, come to Dave and Busters, (the Chuck E. Cheese for adults) where you’ll have a non-stop blast, a hangover and probably a black eye or herpes. I think you get the point. Non-stop fun is actually a subtle threat. And let me tell you, non-stop laughter will really stretch the cheek flaps and test the jawbones. So, be prepared to have your stomach muscles screaming at you after this show because seriously, it is two hours of relentless hilarity. And hopefully you’re not harboring a full bladder because you will pee your pants.

All four actors are spot on, naturally hilarious. Each one of them nailed “it” so hard I think “it’s” probably lodged in there for good (no pun intended). A brilliant mixture of clever songs and funky dances, amusing improvisation and frequent audience involvement, this is not a show to miss. These are no typical Bozo-at-the-circus clowns, but modern theater clowns enacting archetypes in a fresh, offbeat way. The energy on stage of these four clowns, Sad, Angry, Nervous and Mischievous, will have you rocking in your seat with them. And another warning: these clowns will not only climb onto the piano, energetically played by Mario Granville, but also into the audience, and they will ask for audience suggestions because Alive Theatre excels at engaging the entire congregation. You can go and sit passively at any movie theater, but with Alive Theatre boundaries between actor and viewer are blurred, thematically as well as corporeally.

I wrote a preview of this show here, but just to reiterate, Four Clowns is the baby of Jeremy Aluma of Alive Theatre, an always-uproarious three years young theater company based in Long Beach, CA. The play was conceived with the actors, so each one fits the role like a glove. Each one tells the story of his or her life throughout childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death. It’s irreverently entertaining but also personal enough to graze that soft spot in your psyche where you hide all your hurts under the rug. I found myself relating to bits about Sad Clown and Nervous Clown, while my partner practically embodied, in his own way, Mischievous Clown. Aluma described the piece as a “physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be human.” Though I’m not sure I arrived at any groundbreaking revelations, I definitely appreciate the message that pain must have laughter, and it’s just plain smart and funny.

One last thing, leave the kids at home. This is cheeky to the max, no holds barred adult humor performed in a surrealistic Theater of the Absurd fashion. If you love Samuel Beckett and Tom Stoppard, this will be right up your alley. But even if theater is something unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you, this is a guaranteed good time. Producing Director Danielle Dauphinee said, “4 Clowns is a perfect starter piece for someone new to theater or absent from it for a while. It’s truly a great welcome back piece. It’ll blow your mind.” Not stuffy. Not old-fashioned. New and outrageously fun.

So I hate to break the news that Four Clowns’ Long Beach spell is over, for now. This traveling band of minstrels collaborated with the Long Beach Playhouse to perform shows running March 4-19. This year marks the second season of Four Clowns, resurrected after winning Best in Physical Theater and Dance at the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Yes, more please. The good news is these clowns will still be in the area before leaving to tour the San Francisco Fringe Festival and Minnesota Fringe Festival. Catch them at Sacred Fools in Silverlake, Los Angeles May 13-June 10. Also watch for a Four Clowns rendition of Romeo and Juliet at the Hollywood Fringe Festival June 11-25. A new Alive Theatre play called Entropy General is also upcoming, so check their website for more information about a rollicking good time.

- Nancy Woo

Vincent Chavez, Union Weekly – March 16, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

I was under the assumption that clowns were invented to terrify children. Like most modern children, my opinion of clowns was formed solely by media representations because my parents loved me. Stephen King’sIt, Krusty the clown, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, and the hemorrhaging clown from Billy Madison all contributed to my crippling fear of clowns. In general, people with make-up, big shoes, red noses, and/or the instinct to wrap children in cotton candy cocoons and suck the life out of them (I’m looking at you Killer Klowns) cannot be trusted.

Lucky for me and my fellow coulrophobists (guess what phobia these people have…I’ll give you a hint, clowns!), Jeremy Aluma’s Four Clowns offers a depiction of clowns that doesn’t induce fevered screams of “can’t sleep, clown will eat me!” what you get is an exaggerated display of the human condition showcased through the lives and deaths of four clowns, each one representing a clown archetype (sad, nervous, mischievous, and angry). The story divided into four acts, follows these clowns through the ups and downs of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death. Structure wise, Four Clowns is a Swiss Army knife of a show. Improvisational skits, musical numbers, audience participation segments, and miming bits function as transitions for the scripted story segments. This variety helps keep things lively and surprising. What kind of surprises lay in store you say? Well, if I told you they wouldn’t be–nevermind. I’ll just say that this play contains masturbation, suicide, cussing, torture, and rape. So if you were hoping for a more tidy representation of life, I would advise you to back the fuck away from the Long Beach Playhouse Theater. Otherwise, you may end up disappointed like Becky Kinder from our local paper, The Daily 49er.

I’d like to take a moment to respectfully disagree with Miss Kinder’s review of Four Clowns. Am I biased because I write for the Union Weekly? Just a smidgen. Why you might ask? Because I fucking loved the play! Kinder said, “the audience is bombarded with over the top sex scenes and cussing”, and also that, “the clowns mostly play at emotions.” Life is in your face; it is obscene and ugly at times, which is Aluma’s main point. As for these clowns playing at the audience’s emotions I feel that this is central to the play’s story and humor. Every member of the audience may not be able to relate to the stories that are represented but they can empathize. I especially loved Nervous Clown’s hay, adolescent misadventures with love because it speaks to the outcast in all of us (especially the gay kind, I’m gay!). I appreciate that Aluma’s creation is not a one-sided happy clown show, but an honest, hilariously exaggerated, portrayal of the human experience. Shit gets real in the play because life is real. Oh and Kinder also mentions that the, “production lacks comedy and leaves audiences dumbfounded.” Um, yeah, if you’re humorless and/or slow…bitch.

But a clown traditionally functions as a delighter and Four Clowns offers audiences many moments of spontaneous releases of laughter. Much of the humor comes from the audience’s awareness that the clowns are playing humans. The actor’s expressive physical mannerisms also sell the comedy. Like when Angry Clown leapt into the audience during the ‘Adolescence’ musical number and began to violently hump the empty seats in the fourth row. I wasn’t simply laughing because I find simulated sex with inanimate objects hysterical, but what really sold it was the fervor with which he worked those (lucky) seats.

If you fail to find the antics of these four clowns touching, humorous, or entertaining you’re probably not human. Wait, that’s unfair. Children, who might not understand the jokes, probably won’t like the play. Old people, with their prudish views on sex, may not like the show’s freewheeling sexual spirit. Oh and people with sticks, branches, or other wooden sexual paraphernalia lodged in their rectums, who find nothing amusing because the foreign object in said asshole prevents them from finding any joy in life, will leave Four Clownshaving wasted their sorry-ass time.

– Vincent Chavez

K. Primeau, LA Theatre Review - June 27, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

This hilarious and surprisingly deep show tells the tale of 4 archetypal “clowns” – Sad, Mischievous, Angry, and Nervous – as they maneuver childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death. Between heartbreaking and incredibly human (read= absurd, funny, awkward, erotic) moments, the characters improvise song, interact with the audience, and entice our inner devils. More incredible comedic timing & acrobatic movement than stereotypical white face & polka-dotted pants clowning, this piece is a must-see for lovers of spontaneity, devised-movement theatre, and laughing til you cry.

Run time is a little long at over an hour & 1/2, so plan accordingly. Adult subject matter, not for children.

- K. Primeau

Josefa Beyer, Indianapolis Nuvo - July 29, 2011 @ Indy Fringe Theater

You never know if clowns are going to give you a balloon or kill somebody. Jeremy Aluma uses that in his favor in this sketch comedy conception of the stages of man. Developed through improvisation, Four Clowns looks at childhood, adolescence and adulthood through the childish squeaks, bawdy gyrations and intermittent violence of four performers wearing thick white make-up and red ball noses.

I didn’t learn anything new about life (e.g., big brothers can be unrelenting bullies), but I was reminded that some performers can make simple concepts fascinating through practiced physical and vocal prowess and a truckload of commitment. Clowns Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Raymond Lee and Amir Levi and pianist Mario Granville beguiled me with humor tender and blue, scripted and improvised, for at least 60 of Four Clown’s 90 minutes. I hope this LA troupe returns with their Four Clowns: Romeo and Juliet.

M.R. Hunter, Eye Spy LA - May 20, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

It’s in your face comedy—like having a clown’s boutonnière squirt water in your face. This strangely dark and disturbing journey through the uglier aspects of humanity contrasts against the lighthearted antics of four clowns inevitably becoming human through a trial by fire. What holds their red noses to the flame is the nefarious desires such as molestation and natural instincts like sibling rivalry taken to a sadistic level of torture and humiliation. Also among these less than virtuous experiences are issues surrounding abandonment, debauchery, murder and schadenfreude—the delicious delight in someone else’s pain or misfortune.

It’s said that dying is easy, but comedy is hard. These four clowns representing the various archetypes of the fool: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones); Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein); Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi) make clowning around look easy, but being human is harder than a face painted smile. Conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, the subject matter is so outrageously shocking that juxtaposed against the improvisational hijinks and physical comedy the overall effect is both stultifying and stimulating. It works in spite of its overly thin if not superficial premise and enjoyed critical success and rave reviews in last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (winning an award for Best Physical Theater).

Where the concept fails is in the untenable length of virtually the same gags replayed until the shock and awe, along with the humor wears off. This may be a case of what works well in the Fringe does not do nearly as well in a standalone production. There’s not much new here other than additional material and the upbeat jingles by talented pianist, Mario Granville whose impressive bio is as distinctive as his deft ability over the keys. The horrors of humanity simply cannot withstand over 90 minutes of the same shtick-one-trick pony song and dance show.

Besides the clownish characters and costumes, cutely expressed with color and different ties by Cat Elrod and some cynically funny songs such as “When You’re A Child,” “Cancer, Dying Babies, Dying Dogs…” and the succinct “You’re Born Then You Die” musical vignettes, the show lacks theatrical meat on its bones. In the spirit of late-night shows of the “Crack Whore Galore” variety, this production is best seen after a couple of cocktails and then you’ll probably want to have a couple more after just to combat the comic hangover.

The four ring circus clowns are not of the usual trope and each actor brings their own special talents to the roles. Jones, the only female performer of the group does an excellent job of balancing the frenetic energy between her cast mates without becoming overshadowed. Levi garners empathy with his sweet, sly and sickly sexual innuendos. Lee is a lightning rod of energy and nimbleness with bouts of furious rage followed by feeling regret. Klein shows off his physical talents ala Jim Carrey and commands the stage throughout.

Between the scenes spun about in a frenzied improvisational game of role-play, the clowns interact and engage the audience in a very charming way. Woe to anyone who slinks in late as you will become part of the show. There are also additional bits and gags forced in. There is a sense of trying to stuff more in this clown car vehicle than it can really fit in. And mind you, there is no intermission.

Later this summer, “Four Clowns” is taking their act on the road to the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the San Francisco Fringe Festival.

If you’re looking for an offbeat, wickedly funny and extremely adult oriented brand of comedy then this is definitely up your alley. It’ll have you laughing at the most inappropriate situations and squirming in your seat. The issues dealt with here are the kind that most people have trouble smiling about and yet, you probably will. Sick huh? But this is one sick puppy of a show.

- M.R. Hunter

Marlon Deleon, Examiner - March 31, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

With the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament upon the nation, eyes are affixed on these final two pairs. Another season will end, and likewise, other begins (Play Ball!). At the Long Beach Playhouse, in collaboration with Alive Theatre and Southern California Director, Jeremy Aluma (who is CSU Long Beach alum), four is also the magic number.

An omniscient disembodied voice informed the audience of Four Clowns that before there were people, there were four archetypal clowns: Sad, Angry, Mischievous, and Nervous. Originally performed at the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival, this award-winning physical, musical, and emotional journey continued in the Studio Theatre of Long Beach Playhouse, revving its engines for a limited-engagement touring run through this fall.

Much of what audiences enjoyed at the Art Works Theatre was still intact in this remount. Alexis Jones filled the blue shoes of the Sad Clown and Amir Levi wiped his nervous brow with the yellow suit. Kevin Klein stayed with the team as well, but was recast as the Mischievous Clown, giving newcomer Raymond Lee the opportunity to fill the murderous red suit of the Angry Clown. Playhouse house musician Mario Max Granville was tapped in to accompany these brutally honest clowns, and it was well received by those who had seen original accompanist Ellen Warkentine last summer.

Clowns are often stereotyped as creepy, scary, and outlandishly annoying, but Aluma’s Four Horsemen of the Dramacalypse sing, dance, and fight their way through the four stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death. The versatility of each of these four performers is astonishing, portraying older and younger siblings, nurturing and abusive parents, clients, colleagues, and victims. Differences between this remount and the original run are negligible, because Aluma’s structure of the piece (which he also conceived in addition to directed) is uncomplicated and easy to follow, but there are still aspects of improvisation apparent in audience interaction. One woman became Sad Clown’s confidant throughout the evening, and a couple elsewhere in the house was Nervous Clown’s object of awkward affection.

It isn’t surprising that Aluma’s production was nominated at last year’s Fringe Festival for Best World Premiere and Most Outrageous Theatre; or that it won for Best Physical Theatre. A few more lucky houses will get to enjoy this masterful work when Four Clowns travels to the Minnesota Fringe Festival in August, and the San Francisco Fringe Festival in September. Fortunately, there is one more Southern California engagement before they pack their trunks and hit the road, at the Sacred Fools Theatre Company May 13-June 10 for late night performances every Friday at 11pm.

- Marlon Deleon

Marcus Kaye, LA Theatre Review - June 16, 2012 @ Open Fist

If you believe what they tell you (and given the sincerity of these performers, I’m inclined to), before we even existed, four clowns went through the entirety of the human experience. Birth, death and everything in between is covered in this darkly comical sketch show that aptly marries mime, improv, physical comedy and outlandish noises to the experiences of growing up. Broken into three parts, each clown has a story to tell in regards to childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. From molestation to suicide, first dates to lost virginity, no pivotal life moment is left untouched (or unjoked about).

Kevin Klein steals the show as the Mischievous Clown, possessing the elasticity and fun of a young Jim Carrey. This is not to say that Lee, Jones or Levi are subpar. Each stand out– Lee for his vocal strengths (his gangster baby voice is hysterical), Levi for his improv skills and Alexis Jones for creating one of the saddest, most sympathetic, and hilarious female characters I’ve seen on stage. In a time where strong spoken, bawdy females are the toast of comedy, Jones proves that swinging the pendulum and playing the other direction yields just as successful results.

Direction by Jeremy Aluma wisely uses the space and his clown’s talents. Costume design by Cat Elrod is wonderfully fitting, and pianist Mario Granville proves that you don’t need to be wearing make-up in Four Clowns to be skilled at improv. - Marcus Kaye

Kenne Guillory, Santa Monica Mirror - October 6, 2011 @ Sacred Fools

Much can be said about “Four Clowns,” conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. It’s award-winning, has a national fringe tour behind it, and hits near-sellout status with every performance done. It can even be said that it’s never the exact same show twice (as part of it is improvised), which makes it brilliant.

“Four Clowns” tells a story that we have seen many different ways, but most certainly with a twist. It takes you on a physical and emotional journey of the human life, all the while playing off of the age-old wives tale that “Laughter is the best medicine.” It takes you through the universal struggles and flight all humans go through in their life cycle, from childhood through adulthood.

The greatest achievement of “Four Clowns” is that is brings together great chemistry between the four central characters. Kevin Klein (Mischievous Clown), Raymond Lee (Angry Clown), and Amir Levi (Nervous Clown) complement each other very nicely, especially when you add Sad Clown (played by the boisterous Alexis Jones). Jones steals just a little bit of thunder from her co-stars by the way she interacts with the audience to keep her persona going. She’s not to be outdone by Levi’s Nervous clown who also is very audience-energetic at times. One of the ways they demonstrate the chemistry is the hilarious, not-soon-to-be forgotten lyrics of original songs they use as transitions as they “phase” into the next part of life.

Normally taboo subjects that are presented in “Four Clowns” get tackled in a way that even the tough would appreciate. Gratuitous sexual situations, suicide/depression, objectionable language, and even self-gratification are addressed in such a laugh riot, that it works. Even things that the arts community normally steers clear of, such as complete audience interaction, no blackouts, and live music, would be given two thumbs up by the toughest of the tough.

The only weakness in the show is perhaps one that has been overlooked by all: They are clowns. In America, eight percent of Americans have a phobia of clowns. That’s too bad, because with a show like “Four Clowns,” people who see it might just put their fear aside. With five fringe festivals and a national tour behind them, and another national tour fast approaching in 2012, “Four Clowns” is something not to be missed. Aluma, with his stylish directing capability, has been bringing great twists and stage on modern day contemporary pieces (“Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You,” “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” and “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings,”) for years to the Greater Los Angeles area. Is it any wonder that an original would be just as superb?

- Kenne Guillory

John Farrell, Random Lengths - March 10, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

Four Clowns, conceived and directed by Alive Theatre’s Jeremy Aluma, was a hit at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in the middle of the past year, has already been chosen for Fringe festivals in San Francisco and Minnesota, and is being considered for the upcoming festival in New York City. You can see it at the Long Beach Playhouse, where it is being performed in the Studio Theatre Fridays and Saturdays through March 19. Four Clowns is partly scripted, partly improvisational. The four clowns are Alexis Jones as Sad Clown, Kevin Klein as Mischievous Clown, Raymond Lee as Angry Clown and Amir Levi as Nervous Clown, with Mario Granville playing the piano. The play tells the tale of the four clowns as they live various life situations and finally become human. The stories are funny, yes, but also poignant and pointed. Four Clowns is a work in progress, and there is a different take this time around, especially with Granville on the battered piano playing Gershwin and Joplin before the play begins. You owe it to yourself to see this wicked take on the world.

- John Farrell

Ashley Steed, LA Theatre Review - June 27, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

WARNING: Do not hire these clowns for your 5-year-old’s birthday party. But definitely go see 4 Clowns (sans the little ones, of course). The archetypal clowns (Nervous, Mischievous, Angry and Sad) go through the stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death. Not necessarily a morality play, it does leave the message that even though life is horrible – I mean really f***ing horrible – at least we can laugh our way through the pain. Each clown is an honest, albeit exaggerated, version of humanity, expertly crafted and directed by Jeremy Aluma and his quartet of brilliant clowns: Alexis Jones (Sad), Kevin Klein (Angry), Amir Levi (Nervous) and Quincy Newton (Mischievous). Last but not least is Ellen Warkentine whose musical accompaniment is superb and playful.

A mixture of classic clowning techniques with singing and improvisation – this is definitely a must see. You’ll be sure to cry…from laughter.

- Ashley Steed

Dan Johnson, Cinesnatch - June 19, 2012 @ 2012 Hollywood Fringe @ Open Fist

Synopsis: Four actors perform a series of vignettes that present the human struggle from being a kid all the way to adulthood. Oh yeah, they’re clowns.

Review: Four Clowns is an improv comedy show broken up into three sections: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each phase of life offers a variety of skits, including a boy molested by his teacher, another bullied by his brother, a teenager spurning his first love due to peer pressure, and an adult taken ill who must be operated on. Although it may not seem like cheery subject matter, I assure you it most certainly is.

With such a talented group, it’s hard to pick a favorite performer here. Amir Levi may be the funniest of the four, though Raymond Lee has the most range (if you ever need an impression of a half dolphin/half sheep, Lee is your guy). Alexis Jones has a beautiful singing voice, and her line delivery was great, even when speaking gibberish. Kevin Klein (not that one) brought a manic, self-conscious energy to the show. He was the most comfortable letting the seams of the play show, sharing with the audience the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of improv. I can’t help but think that someone needs to send these actors over to SNL to save it.

The show, though a lot of fun, could have used a bit more discipline. Skits went on a little too long, interludes occasionally seemed directionless, and the group relied a little too heavily on killing one or all of the main characters to find their way out of a dead-end skit. The actors played fast and loose throughout the show, less artists than performers having a blast. It was impossible to resist their infectious spirit, but I just wished the screws were just a little tighter. Ultimately, they were better comedians than improvisationalists. Mario Granville deserves a special shout-out for his spirited piano playing throughout the show. He ably created the soundtrack for the various skits, and his introductory pieces in particular were especially difficult.

Best Line: Throughout the play, we witness the Sad Clown (Jones) being verbally abused by her mother. She befriends an audience member and periodically goes to him for comfort, leading to the following exchange–

Sad Clown: Why is my mother like that?

Audience Member: Because she’s mean.

Sad Clown: I’d rather be mean than sad.

The most succinct explanation for bullying I’ve ever heard.

Bottom Line: The cast is extremely talented and likable. The show could use a little cleaning up, but you’ll have a great time, regardless.

- Dan Johnson

Marlon Deleon, Examiner - June 28, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

From the depths of the infinite past before time, the stories of four clowns – the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown – were brought to life on stage at the Art/Work Theatre.

Each clown reveals the background of why they are who they are through a series of personal stories following the major phases of a person’s life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Their dramatic, chaotic and often dark stories remind us why humanity invented comedy in the first place: Life is painful and then you die so why not laugh and smile a little in between.

4 Clowns was a great mixture of drama, melodrama, musical, physical comedy and improv. The play was produced by Alive Theatre and Diane Christensen. The cast was incredibly tight as an ensemble and played well off of one another which was essential since many of the scenes involved literally grinding against each other’s bodies or simulating copious amounts of sexual acts. The physicality of the actors was one of the most exciting things to watch and was definitely one of the essential storytelling tools.

The musician also was an intricate part of the cast. Her music and sound effects set the actors in motion and were in rhythm with the dynamic vision of the show. The show wouldn’t have been the same without her.

- Freddy Puza

John Farrell, Random Lengths - June 24, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

4 Clowns is the Long Beach entry in the sprawl- ing Hollywood Fringe Fest this year, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma and just one part of doz- ens of plays and dramatic presentations all over the Hollywood area through this weekend.

Aluma takes four clowns, Alexis Jones (the Sad Clown,) Kevin Klein (the Angry Clown,) Amir Levy (the Nervous Clown) and Quincy Newton (the Mischievous Clown) and with the artful help of Musical Director Ellen Warkentine lets them interact with their audience, sometimes improvis- ing, sometimes in scripted actions, in a variety of settings that allow for plenty of funny moments and just as many serious ones. Especially fine as Levy, who doesn’t let his nervousness interfere with his sense of comedy. Aluma lets them do their stuff: acrobatic sometimes, intellectual always (and always funny.) Aluma says the performance may be brought to Long Beach, but better to see it now in Hollywood. The website will give you an idea.

- John Farrell

Trish Ostroski, Tolucan Times - June 23, 2010 @ 2010 Hollywood Fringe @ Art/Works

If you are a fan of the art of clowning, here is a chance to see this unique art. If you are inexperienced in this segment of the arts, here is your chance to be enlightened.

4 Clowns is conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. The show consists of stories, skits, improv and interplay with the audience and features versions of a sad, angry, nervous and mischievous clowns: the four clown archetypes. As they get together to reminisce their past they discover that laughter is often most earnest as a best medicine when one reflects on sorrows as they tell their stories from childhood to adulthood. The show is mature, so it is not for the kids.

The cast features Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Amir Levi and Quincy Newton who are all versatile, distinctive and eye-catching. Musical director Ellen Warkentine, who peppers the production with music and sounds from several instruments, strikes just the right chord.

4 Clowns is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be a human being. Its prescription is that “laughter is the best medicine.” Take a dose and see if you agree.

- Trish Ostroski

Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic - July 16, 2011 @ Space 55

Some actors swap horror stories about barnstorming the country in bus-and-truck tours, but the thought of a bus – complete with driver – may sound like a luxury to the cast of “Four Clowns.”

The Los Angeles troupe (fourclowns.org) is launching a national tour indie-rock style: five men and one woman in two compact SUVs.

“The van was $100 a day, which we just couldn’t afford,” says director Jeremy Aluma, who is accompanying the titular clowns and a pianist on the road. Their first stop is next weekend at Space 55, a storefront venue in downtown Phoenix.

Aluma, inspired by a class in clown performance at LA’s Studio Six, created the show for the inaugural Hollywood Fringe festival last year. Developed through improvisation, it explores the stages of life through the eyes of four clown “archetypes” – angry, sad, mischievous and nervous – in traditional whiteface makeup.

“I’ve directed a number of different genres of theater, but I’d never done a clown show,” Aluma says. “It was a risk because it was going to be my first original show, and I didn’t have anything written. I just had an idea. So I was just hoping I could get these four actors who were willing to go on this journey with me without a script, without anything.”

“Four Clowns” won the Fringe Award for dance and physical theater and moved on to other venues in the LA area, including the Long Beach Playhouse. After Phoenix, the touring version will go to Indianapolis and Chicago, then the Minnesota and San Francisco Fringe fests.

With the proliferation of Fringes around the country – Phoenix held its version in April – more “indie” theaters are taking their shows to the road. Shawna Franks, artistic director of Space 55 Theatre Ensemble, says her venue has hosted nearly a dozen such productions over the past year.

“I like that we’re seeing more of this in Phoenix,” she says. “It’s the essence of how theater started, the need to perform even if you’re just on a street corner and have a cardboard box. . . .

“I really hope that more performers look at Phoenix as a kind of city where they can just drop in and there are people who are willing to help them put up a show and there are people who are interested in coming to see it.”

- Kerry Lengel

Samantha Mehlinger, LA Stage Times – March 4, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

There is something about the white-face makeup and red nose of a clown that never fails to elicit strong emotions from audiences. For the American public, the image stirs up all kinds of associations: the circus, children’s birthday parties, or even Tim Curry’s sinister clown in It, the 1990 TV movie based on the Stephen King novel.

Alive Theatre’s production of Four Clowns at the Long Beach Playhouse promises to shake up these pop culture stereotypes, bringing clowning back to its artistic origins with a modern twist. The original incarnation of Four Clowns premiered at the first Hollywood Fringe Festival last summer (spelled then as 4 Clowns), garnering a number of nominations and awards including the 2010 Bitter Lemons Most Outrageous Theater Award Nomination, 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival Nomination for Best World Premiere, and the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival Award for Best Physical Theater.

Jeremy Aluma, creator and director of the play, had no idea his first attempt at authoring a piece for theater would result in such success. “I was so nervous and unsure of how the show was going to be received, if people were going to get it, if it was going to be too sloppy,” he says. “All my fears were quelled on opening night. The audience reaction was just tremendous. It really felt like they were laughing the entire time, so much so that a three to four second silence was just pregnant,” Aluma says of the Fringe audience’s reaction.

Although Aluma graduated from California State University Long Beach (CSULB) in the not-so-distant past of 2006, he is no rookie to Los Angeles theater. Aluma estimates that since his graduation he has been involved with at least 30 local theatrical productions and has directed between 10 and 15. In 2008 Aluma co-founded the Alive Theatre group with another CSULB grad, Danielle Dauphinee.

According to Aluma, the first step in mounting Alive was to find a group of talented individuals. “We had people who had graduated the year before us, the year after us, just a lot of people surrounding us whose talent we believed needed to be showed and nurtured,” he says. To showcase this collective talent, Aluma and Dauphinee created a play festival called the Cherry Poppin’ Play Festival which premiered at the Garage Theatre in Long Beach. “That sort of inaugurated Alive Theatre,” Aluma says of the event. “In the end, it was over 50 people working on our first production in a 30- to 40-seat house at the Garage Theatre.” The event has since been renamed the more appropriate-sounding Long Beach Poppin’ Play Festival.

One of Alive Theatre’s defining attributes is that the company lacks a permanent venue. “Our M.O. is that we find spaces: warehouses, art galleries, museums, nightclubs, boats—all over the place,” says Aluma. This can be both beneficial and problematic. “We’ve performed in six of the nine districts throughout Long Beach, which is something most theater companies can’t say. The disadvantage is that our tech people have to build a theater at every space we go to, and that’s not an easy feat. In terms of the artistic integrity, what’s been nice is really trying to match the show to the venue. It’s definitely inspiring to try to find the right space for a show.”

These experiences gave Aluma an understanding of the challenges that can arise from remounting a show at a new venue. “My goal was to create a show that not only could we do again but that is easy to travel and produce all over the place — something we could set up in a really short amount of time and perform,” Aluma says of Four Clowns.

In addition to knowing he wanted to create a travel-ready show, Aluma was inspired by physical comedy and the art of clowning. As a student at CSULB, Aluma initially trained as an actor before moving into the field of directing. “When I was an actor I was really interested in physical theater. I was fascinated by the idea of bodies being the tools for telling the story,” he explains.

Aluma took “clown class” with instructor Orlando Pabotoy at Studio Six, an LA school devoted to the history and art of the clown. This experience, combined with other outside inspirations, led him to create Four Clowns. “Two of the most inspiring shows for this play were Slava’s Snowshow, which I saw Off-Broadway in New York in 2006, and a show called That Beautiful Laugh, which was done by Cal State Long Beach students and directed by Orlando Pabotoy,” says Aluma.

The four clowns of the show’s namesake represent the four archetypes: the sad clown (played by Alexis Jones), the nervous clown (Amir Levi), the angry clown (Raymond Lee) and the mischievous clown (Kevin Klein). “They each have a separate story line. The play shows you four different stages of life of each of the four clowns: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death,” explains Aluma. To convey these character arcs, the clowns primarily use physical comedy. “There are a couple of scenes that are dialogue-heavy, and their humor comes from word play and from wittiness, but for the most part we’ve tried to use miming and clowning and physical relationships between the actors and the audience to tell the story.”

The clowns’ archetypes guide their interactions with the audience as well as their own storylines. “For example, the mischievous clown is the only clown that asks for suggestions from the audience. The sad clown tries to pull the audience in by asking them whether they think things are going to get better or worse, and part of her attempt is to make the audience feel bad for her,” says Aluma.

Part of Aluma’s intention is to use as little dialogue as necessary, complemented by pianist Mario Granville. He explains that because part of the show is improvised, dialogue is a constantly fluctuating element within the piece. “A goal of mine is to be able to take this around the world. But if that’s going to happen then we’ve really got to strip the play of as much language as possible. In the Fringe run maybe 30% of the show had dialogue, and this run maybe 15 to 20%,” he says.

To make his hopes become a reality, Aluma is devoted to fine-tuning the play as much as possible. He hopes to accomplish this by taking Four Clowns across the country to various fringe festivals this summer. “So far we’ve gotten into the San Francisco fringe and the Minnesota fringe, and we’re waiting to hear back from Chicago and New York,” he says.

Aluma assures that Long Beach theatergoers are in for an entertaining performance. “It’s a very funny, very vulgar, very gratuitous show.”

- Samantha Mehlinger

Joel Beers, OC Weekly - February 15, 2012 @ South Coast Repertory

Consider the clown. Though part of an illustrious history of performing that reaches back some 4,500 years, lots of people revile, fear and downright hate the creatures. Kind of sucks for such a fun-loving trope

But for every terrifying John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise, and for every unctuous dolt like Bozo, there are hundreds of very serious performers who embrace the cult of clowning like a douche bag throwing back Jager Bombs.

Case in point: Four Clowns, a quartet of clowns that have barn-stormed the country the past two years. Conceived by Jeremy Aluma, the Los Angeles-based troupe has received rave reviews from appearances at fringe festivals in that city, along with Minnesota and Hollywood.

While the troupe has created a Romeo-and-Juliet spin on clowns, this is its first show, billed as a "physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be a human."

The four clowns represent the ancient archetypes: sad clown, mischievious clown, angry clown and nervous clown.

With generous dollops of "graphic violence, strong sexual situations and other wanton behavor," this ain't balloon-animal-tying, seltzer-spewing clowning by a long shot.

But while they veer into some darker corridors of the human psyche, these clowns aren't designed to fulfill the evil clown quotient.

"Historically, (Clowns) served as a means to entertain, yet they were sometimes the only people who could comment honestly and fully on the inner politics of the day, sometimes even changing the policy," Alumna said via e-mail. "In the modern era there is an association with clowns being scary and frightening but their traditional purpose is anything but scary. Our clowns play with themes of violence and sexual situations, but it's strictly for comedic purposes. The clown in Four Clowns will make you laugh and they might shock you but you're not going to get scared." Two of the clowns have OC connections: Kevin Klein, who was born and raised in OC (Mischievous Clown), and Raymond Lee (Angry Clown) a former resident.

Four Clowns is part of South Coast Repertory's Studio SCR, an effort in which smaller, more eclectic performers around Southern California get the opportunity to perform shows in that professional theaters' far cozier digs.

- Joel Beers

Jonathan Van Dyke, Grunion Gazette - March 7, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

What drives comedy, asks Jeremy Aluma? Something that takes from a kaleidoscope of emotion?

The director of “Four Clowns,” a joint venture of Long Beach Playhouse and Alive Theatre, said he sought to combine many different aspects of live performance in creating a unique theater platform – with a special emphasis on the physical.

“As a director, I always try to implement that into the play,” he said. “I try to make the bodies of the characters an important part of the play.”

Collaborations, like this one with Alive Theatre, are something the Long Beach Playhouse is looking to really focus on, said Lauren Morris, managing director.

“They’re doing great work and they deserve to be showcased,” she said. “It’s great for them, but it helps us too because they have a great and young audience and it helps introduce us to that community.”

The Long Beach Playhouse has been running a schedule for 82 years — Alive Theatre, in contrast, is in the midst of its third season. Morris said the Long Beach Playhouse was shrinking its production slate (five shows instead of eight) in order to produce more collaborations.

“We all know each other anyway because the theater community is so small, so it doesn’t feel that different to be working with these people,” Morris said. “It’s been pretty seamless.”

Aluma created “Four Clowns,” a tale of, yes, four clowns who represent four different moods: Sad, mischievous, angry and nervous. The four clowns reminisce on how they grew up, and eventually, how they come to die. There is a chest that includes prop set pieces that inspire different scenes from each clown’s life that keeps the story moving forward.

“At the end, the idea is that through these experiences with each other, they can become a well-rounded clown,” Aluma said.

The journey will include plenty of humor and physical comedy, as well as some crass language and sexual references, he added.

“Nothing is taboo,” he said.

Having known Aluma since going to school together at California State University, Long Beach, actor Kevin Klein said he was eager to take part in the project. When it initially ran, he played the angry clown, but for the Long Beach debut he will be mischievous.

“You would think on the surface that it’s just a funny clown play,” Klein said. “It’s actually a very good challenge to develop something that does have meaning to it.”

Klein said that the actors and director made the decision for an organic feel — about 20% of the play is improvised.

“That’s part of the art of clowning — that it can change on any given night,” he said.

Each clown has a specific, and often dark, reason for why he embodies a certain type of mood, Klein said. The mischievous clown was neglected, and lashes out for attention, while the angry clown suffered abuse.

More than anything, what makes the play come alive is the commitment to physicality and the cast taking on that challenge, Aluma said, which garnered them an award at 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

“The strength is the physical comedy and the ability of the actors to take risks and be 100% involved in the show,” Klein said. “Boring will never be tied to his show. This is the type of show that in rehearsal there was blood, sweat and tears — we don’t hold back.”

And it’s by showing this full spectrum of emotion as honestly as possible that the play succeeds, Aluma said.

“That’s the beauty of life,” he said. “The joys and the sorrows are equally meaningful. Laughter and tears are really a beautiful part of our lives and I think it’s important we’re in touch with both sides.”

- Jonathan Van Dyke

Nicki Escudero, Phoenix New Times - July 15, 2011 @ Space 55

Clowns may seem like they’re all about sunshine and smiles, but underneath the face paint and fuzzy noses lays a lot of complexity.

The archetypal sad, mischievous, angry and nervous clowns come together to reflect on their lives in the original play Four Clowns, taking place on Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23, at Space 55. For those who suffer from coulrophobia — the (only somewhat) irrational terror of clowns — this could be the first step in challenging those fears. For everyone else, it’s a bit of stress relief.

“It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and it seems as though it is most healing when we reflect on our past,” says director Jeremy Aluma. “I hope that through this journey, people can learn to laugh a little more at themselves and in their lives.”

- Nicki Escudero

Nancy Woo, Patch Feature – March 4, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

What does it mean to be human? We humans seem to ask this question incessantly.

But what does it mean to be human to clowns?

Tonight, Alive Theatre invites you to scratch your head, tap your chin, sigh, wail or express yourself however you choose with four introspective clowns as they recount their trials and tribulations while uncovering the hilarity of it all.

With their second installment of the award-winning original comedy Four Clowns, the no-holds-barred Alive Theatre of Long Beach offers up yet another dose of sorrow and laughter. The 81-year-old Long Beach Playhouse will be hosting the three years young Alive Theatre as they invite audiences on a “physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be human.”

Conceived and directed by Associate Director of Alive Theatre, Jeremy Aluma, it’s sure to be an uproarious romp through the pitfalls of existence, if judging by last year’s enthusiastic reception and the reputation of the company thus far. The piece won the Award for Best in Physical Theater and Dance at the 2010 Hollywood Fringes Festival, and the animated crew has quickly gained recognition for being one of the most explosive, energetic and talented theater companies in Long Beach.

As a self-proclaimed nomadic band of artists (not only actors, but writers, designers, producers and directors), Alive Theatre members amicably jaunt from venue to venue, “knowing that not all who wander are lost.”

Their most recent performance took place right here in Naples Island at the newly opened Naples Fine Art Center. In their usual way, the team built a theater where before there was none and put on a rollicking good show of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the surrealistic, existential tragicomedy about two minor characters in Hamlet. The cast was clever, engaging and non-stop fun, leaving the audience in stitches. Aaron van Geem shone in a role he made outrageously his own, modernizing the character of Rosencrantz with hilarious intonation and impeccable delivery. The traveling band of minstrels in the production also had a notably ecstatic energy (the irony of this not overlooked).

Erika De La Parra, Gallery Director of Naples Fine Art Center, said good-naturedly of them, “They’re like a band of gypsies, and I could even see them traveling around in a mobile theater truck. You never know where they’re going to land next.”

From a makeshift theater that seated around 45 to a grand playhouse, these minstrels make community outreach and artistic collaboration a priority on their agenda, encouraging all audiences to “explore the renaissance taking place in their very own neighborhoods.” The start-up Naples gallery is on board, proud to encourage the intersection of the arts and happy to bring new energy to Naples with them. The owner is on the board of directors of Alive Theatre.

So what can clowns teach us?

Though it wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate to say the content of Alive shows is subversive or risqué, Aluma prefers to describe their style as being uninhibited and willing to show themselves. From their debut “Cherry Poppin’ Play Festival” to “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” and “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot,” (plus various impromptu burlesque shows) their material seems to be delightfully cheeky.

With Four Clowns, Aluma hopes that emphasizing certain archetypes will probe at whatever is going on inside and with the audience. Just like humans, these clowns are Sad, Angry, Mischievous and Nervous. They reminisce about their respective experiences of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death. Though not happy stories necessarily, the performance is a comedy based on reflections of past orrows.

Aluma says, “No one’s only angry or sad, and we all have the potential to laugh and be scared. In the end, we’re mostly the same. And we’ve got to laugh.”

A strange, undeniable fact is that some people are terribly afraid of clowns. There seems to be some innate quality about clowns that many feel an aversion to — maybe the painted-on emotions or grotesque exaggeration of human qualities. But perhaps artistically, exaggeration can be a way to isolate a feeling or phenomenon and experience it in a very full way, maybe even cathartically.  As Producing Director Danielle Dauphinee asserts, their work is meant to be fun and entertaining, but also challenging and thought-provoking.

And Aluma implied that there are no clowns like the knife-brandishing murderer from It (a considerable reason why people are scared of clowns, he said). These clowns are not birthday clowns or circus clowns, just theater clowns doing their best to understand their world. But because of language and adult themes, you will probably still want to call the babysitter for this explicit entertainment.

If you happened to catch the show last year, you can expect new elements this time around because different actors are playing two of the clowns. Four Clowns is somewhat improvisational in that it was conceptualized by Aluma, but written with the actual performers. This allowed for a path of ideas to be fleshed out as a collaborative effort, leaving “the moments up to the actors,” as Aluma put it, which means the suit each actor wears fits him alone.

The sort of interactive attitude, from merging with visual art venues to improvisation, is part of what gives Alive Theatre its unique energy. As Dauphinee enthusiastically explained, “We want the audience to be engaged in theater as a community experience. We want everyone to be involved.” Everyone, she says, including those who don’t regularly attend theater or who feel it is too much of an expense. This is why they host a Pay-What-You-Can night for every play, and usually have other sorts of discounts, as well.

Dauphinee said, “We choose not to participate in this recession, so we focus on positive energy and what we can do rather than what we can’t.”

So which patch of laurel trees did these roving minstrels come from, and are those flutes I hear? The short story is this: In 2008, some particularly close-knit theater students and artists who had recently graduated from CSULB found that they lacked the niche in Long Beach for the type of theater they were passionate about. So, in an entrepreneurial stroke of genius, they joined together and created that opportunity for themselves.

Instead of dispersing to bustling centers for the performing arts like Los Angeles or New York City, they decided to “plant their feet in Long Beach.”

When not working their day jobs, the troupe shares their blood, sweat and tears with the city they love. From staging plays at a library scheduled for closure to hosting a children’s summer camp, and from supporting a non-profit group for artists called Catalyst to joining the brand new Long Beach Theater Arts Collective, Alive Theatre has shown and continues to exhibit a refreshing passion for innovative theater, strong community and the art of mixing marrow-chilling truths with great big guffaws.

Dauphinee said, “Four Clowns is a perfect starter piece for someone new to theater or absent from it for a while. It’s truly a great welcome back piece. It’ll blow your mind.”

- Nancy Woo

Stacy Davies, OC Weekly - February 16, 2012 @ South Coast Repertory

Clowns aren’t just for kiddies or terrifying cinematic fables anymore—no, clowns of the 21st century engage in graphic violence, simulated sexual acts and “other wanton behavior.” Long maligned by society because no matter how nice or cute they tried to be, they made our collective skin crawl, clowns take on a new form in Jeremy Aluma’s show, and Sad, Mischievous, Angry and Nervous have decided to stop, er, clowning around and finally give us what we want: warped, atrocious reflections of ourselves. They also make you laugh (perhaps through your shrieking), as they reminisce on their tragic pasts, but the jury’s still out on whether this mimicking of human horrors will finally turn that sad clown frown upside down. Keep us posted.

- Stacey Davies

Molly Marina Haupt, 562 City Life Feature – February 26, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

Long Beach is full of theatrical talent, with a playhouse in almost every district. But the Alive Theatre doesn’t need a building, as the four-year-old traveling theatre company has performed at landmark locations all throughout the city and a collaboration with the Long Beach Playhouse is next.

The Alive Theatre began in early 2008, when two Cal State Long Beach theatre graduates conceived an idea for a local theatre festival. Jeremy Aluma and Danielle Dauphinee reached out to fellow CSULB grads running The Garage Theatre, and were graciously offered the downtown Long Beach venue for their first production.

It was titled The Cherry Poppin’ Play Festival and was so successful, Alive Theatre just marked its third annual, in September 2010. However, it was given a new, more inclusive title, The Long Beach Poppin’ Play Festival, and was held at the historic Lafayette Ballroom downtown.

Aside from those two locations, Alive Theatre has performed at some sight specific spots like Duke’s Riverboat, the Koos Art Center, Long Beach Main Public Library, Museum of Latin American Art and the Queen Mary, just to name a few.

“After the Duke’s Riverboat production (of “The Caberet: Rock The Boat 2008,”) we realized we had something special,” Aluma said. “We have often been the first company to perform in a facility and it’s been nice to cover different areas and interesting locations in this city.”

But now, this young, growing theatre group is teaming up with the well-established 81-year-old theatre company, the Long Beach Playhouse.

Aluma said he and his peers were interested in working with the Long Beach Playhouse, as they are colleagues with recently named Artistic and Technical Director Andrew Vonderschmitt, and Managing Director Lauren Morris, a CSULB alumna also.

Turns out, those two were hoping to get involved with a young, local theatre company, so the collaboration concept developed perfectly.

“I felt like the time was right and they did too,” Aluma said “This is like a trial run for a new idea. The first time we have fully collaborated with another company. I’m excited.”

The production of “FOUR CLOWNS” is an original play conceived by Aluma and enhanced by his original four clowns in the prior performance of the play, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2010. He is also the director.

It is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be human, with the four clowns representing the archetypes of the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown.

Running March 4 – March 19th in the playhouse’s Studio Theatre, come check out a local theatre collaboration of this original play that was awarded the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards for Best in Physical Theatre and Dance.

“This production requires audience’s reaction and the great thing about theater, is it’s live and you can really create a community and there’s magic. That’s what we’re reaching for with the “FOUR CLOWNS” performance,” Aluma said.

Alive Theatre is in charge artistically, but production and marketing has been a big collaborative effort, so there is no reason to expect anything less than spectacular. After all, the LB Playhouse has 81 years worth of experience and the Alive Theatre group is making history in this city.

Tickets are only $10 and if you miss the show, you’re risking a future upset when potentially reading about the “FOUR CLOWNS” crew and they’re journey across the country this summer. They have already been invited to take the play to San Francisco, Minnesota, Kansas City and possibly Chicago and New York. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

- Molly Marina Haupt

Marlon Deleon, Examiner – July 8, 2010 DTLA Artwalk Feature @ July DTLA Artwalk

If you’re anywhere near the LA Art Walk you should check out A Theatrical Experiment with the Hollywood Fringe Festival’s award winning Four Clowns teaming up with Sam Tribble and the Spinologists. In the windows along 5th Street between Main and Spring Streets the team of Nervous, Sad, Angry, and Mischievous Clowns will be on hand for a brand new physical theatre experience led by locally acclaimed director Jeremy Aluma.

Free theatre doesn’t happen often, but it’s happening tonight from 7:30-10:30pm amidst the creative beehive of the art walk. If you missed the amazing performances of this outstanding ensemble at last month’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, then come on down to 5th Street in Los Angeles right around the corner from the Art Walk Lounge to enjoy the artistic antics of clowning in close proximity!

- Marlon Deleon


Noah Nelson, Huffington Post - September 9, 2011 @ San Francisco Fringe

To whit: a small cadre of Los Angeles based theater artists — all of whom were featured in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival — are traveling to the SF Fringe and backing each other’s promotional efforts. The ensemble show 4 Clowns (whose creator Jeremy Aluma we interviewed back in June), and solo efforts Blink & You Might Miss Me, and Over There: Comedy Is His Best Weapon form the LA contingent.

Speaking from my own experience as a theater major, I can attest that at my own alma mater (San Francisco State) we were given little in the way of instruction or advice on how to handle the business part of “show business”. Which makes creators like 4 Clowns’ Jeremy Aluma all the more impressive for their ability to build not just a solid piece of theater, but promotional machine that pulls in an audience. It’s the unavoidable obstacle of all indie endeavors: artists have to be entrepreneurs if they want to be artists at all

Tom Crann, Caroline Toll & Nick Vetter, Minnesota Public Radio – August 10, 2011

Four Clowns 2011 National Tour Interview @ Minnesota Fringe

Tom Crann: Any surprises for either of you?

Caroline Toll: Well we saw a show last night that was fantastic, I think it was, I’m sure it’s the best show I’ve seen thus far in my opinion.

Nick Vetter: Yeah.

Caroline Toll: I think it might be the one I’ve seen potentially ever.

Tom Crann: Really. What is it?

Caroline Toll: It’s an out-of-town company called Four Clowns and as soon as I tell you I loved it, I also want to tell you it’s incredibly naughty.

Nick Vetter: Yeah, it’s not suitable for children or people who are easily offended.

Tom Crann: And tell us about it.

Caroline Toll: It’s four clowns doing things that would not normally be part of their…

Tom Crann: Clown genre?

Caroline Toll: Yeah, exactly, but they do it so well, there’s so much physical comedy…

Nick Vetter: Very kinetic, very active, very funny, fast, quick-witted and unusual humor, it’s unexpected and really delightful and quirky.

Caroline Toll: It’s very fringey.

Joshua Humphrey, Twin Cities Theater Connection – August 4, 2011

Four Clowns 2011 National Tour Preview @ Minnesota Fringe

Four Clowns especially came out of nowhere and knocked me out. I had a huge grin on my face (partially aghast) watching them go through their routine. Make the time to get over to Gremlin and see them–I’m going to find a place for them in my schedule.

- Joshua Humphrey

Ed Huyck, Minneapolis City Pages – August 4, 2011 @ Minnesota Fringe

One of the touring productions, Four Clowns, built a tour around several Fringe appearances this summer. That allows the Los Angeles-based company to bring its show to a wide swath of the country, and to interact with a number of theater companies, says Jeremy Aluma.

“I’ve heard such positive things about your Fringe. In fact it’s the one of the five I was most hoping we got into. I hear your town turns into a theater community and everyone from the city comes out. Already I can feel the momentum 3,000 miles away. The staff and site are very well organized, and it seems like they have got it down in terms of how to produce a festival,” Aluma says.

- Ed Huyck

Max Sparber, Minn Post – August 12, 2011 @ Minnesota Fringe

The shows themselves remain worth checking out, and here are a few that are getting really good word-of-mouth: The Mechanical Division’s Broadway parody “Cat”; Isabel Nelson’s fairy tale-inspired “Red Resurrected”; “Four Clowns,” which is actually presented by four clowns;The Nerdyad’s “Hamluke,” a Star Wars/Hamlet mash-up; and “Super Spectacular!: To Opera With Love,”.

Brandon Ferguson, OC Weekly - March 3, 2011 @ Long Beach Playhouse

Alive Theatre and the Long Beach Playhouse are primed to present some multitasking entertainment: live comedy with potentially curative powers found by confronting childhood demons. Directed by Jeremy Aluma, Four Clowns is a play that examines the human spirit through the lives of four clowns (sad, angry, mischievous and nervous). Described as a physical, musical and emotional journey, it involves the past laments of these funny folk in grease paint. Four Clowns is a comedy with the potential for some serious laughter, and for the brave few, it’s an opportunity to confront deeply ingrained childhood terrors.

- Brandon Ferguson