If anything good came out the tragic incident at the Stone Street Theatre two weeks ago, when a man shot 11 people after a fight over a woman during a private party held in the space, it stems from the adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity. After all, how many people knew about Stone Street before the June 10 shooting? Not many, which makes sense considering the tiny theater's located in more of an alleyway than on a street and has an advertising budget of approximately $0, says co-artistic director Mark Fickert.
The SST folks invited me out Friday night to catch its adult clown act Bini and the Bonk, and I found the place tucked downtown between Campisi's and the Thomas & Leggitt Tavern; it occupies an upstairs space that used to be a private banquet area. The theater is dark and intimate with a bar greeting the entrance; there are several small tables topped with crisp white tablecloths. With a small stage, the theater plans to host more cabaret-style acts, as opposed to actual plays, and without an official backstage, that's probably the best idea. I walked in late only to find all but two of the tables empty and a clown playing the piano Dooley Wilson-style, a la Casablanca.
The theater was clearly hoping for more of a crowd, but with the crew outnumbering the audience, they opted for more of a sampler platter than show. It turns out Bonk is Bonkers from the old kid's variety show Club 27. Hard to believe I used to want to be one of the kids on that show with the same clown who's now doing Christopher Reeve jokes while sucking down wine. The show itself is probably funnier with a crowd, but the energy wasn't there, and the promised R-laughs weren't much more than a few PG-13 chuckles. However, the funniest bit was Bini's demonstration of the oral skills of the one lady in the audience. She held back her head as he "inserted" a long balloon down her throat--and I do mean long. Insert adolescent guffaw here.
Under the circumstances, that performance is probably forgivable. But the theater itself is working hard to get people in there. With a full lineup of music acts, comedy troupes and more clown shows, they are earnest in providing a different nighttime attraction than just your everyday club or theater. Being downtown gives it an added cool vibe, but you probably ought to check it out before we lose another bright spot in the city. --Rich Lopez