There’s nothing particularly new about this latest piece from Die Hanswurste, the folks who brought you the cutting-edge romp Klown: Prick Us and We’ll Burst in 1994. The tone is still dark. The comedy is edgy and cynical. And the show is still hilarious, especially if you don’t mind a mean-spirited joke or two: most of the humor is based on an understated sadism. Again and again Otto Schmidt–reprising his role as the endlessly cruel ringmaster Franzel Kier–finds ways to hurt Joel Jeske’s good-hearted, sad-faced clown, Kamm Oste. And again and again the childlike Oste, hoping for approval or friendship, falls for Kier’s cruel jokes. Some of these bits are very funny, as when Kier gives Oste a gift box and makes him believe there’s a bomb inside. Others are merely amusing, as when Kier repeatedly beats Oste at chess because he changes the rules at will, winning one game by knocking one of Oste’s pieces over, another by pulling a handful of cards from under the chessboard and shouting “gin!” Perhaps nothing can approach the brilliance of Klown, but there’s still enough here for an entertaining evening. And Jeske–fresh from performing as a clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus–has never executed pratfalls with more grace. WNEP Theater, 3209 N. Halsted, 773-755-1693. Through February 15: Thursdays, 8 PM. $20.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matthew Kaplan.