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 Brian Powell as Big Daddy in  What the Frack Happened?  presented by Citizen Change Theatre at Pico Union Project (photo by Mauricio Gomez Amoretti)

Brian Powell as Big Daddy in What the Frack Happened? presented by Citizen Change Theatre at Pico Union Project (photo by Mauricio Gomez Amoretti)

What the Frack Happened?

Reviewed by Gray Palmer
Pico Union Project and other venues
Through December 17 - Recommended

In this new comedy by Gina Rose Powell and Brian Powell, a wedding celebration is interrupted by a tsunami. While we tread water with the characters, or bob on water-wings and inner-tubes, Big Daddy (Brian Powell) is somewhat chastened for the damage caused by extraction of surplus value: Sisters of the bride (Libby Wahlmeier and Ella Rose Charles) see that their privileges have become meaningless, their innocence irrelevant, until the bride (Rachel Murphy) and groom (Rahul Rai) find each other again, and the wedding can be completed on high ground, this time with an inflatable life-raft handy.

The skillful, roving Citizen Change Theatre is presenting the show in the synagogue at Pico Union Project. On the one hand, it’s an example of what Peter Brook calls rough theater: “…theatre that’s not in a theatre… on carts, on wagons, on trestles… theatre in back rooms, upstairs rooms, barns…” On the other hand, because Pico Union occupies an ecumenical, consecrated space — it feels wonderful — we might call their comedy in this current version a hybrid of the rough and holy.

When I saw that the show’s principle illumination was provided by five simple clip-lamps across the edge of the altar floor, I thought, “That’s a good sign.” And when the performance began with the simplest of means — a young man in whiteface (Isaac Silver) singing as he accompanied himself on ukulele — the charm of this company’s technique was immediately apparent.

As text, there’s more exploration of situation than there is of story, but that’s not a drawback. The joy of the company’s style has the effect of evoking the spirit of collective action. The co-authors’ approach is Horatian satire (the gentle kind), which makes the show a good opportunity to begin discussion about climate change with children.

Jef Bek has composed songs with lyrics by Brian Powell. Bek also plays incidental music throughout the performance, giving percussive support to all its physical life. There is excellent singing by Bryan Porter.

At the final wedding celebration, the company performs Bollywood choreography by Rahul Rai — he is a terrific dancer — set to Amit Trivedi’s “London Thumakda.” After that dance, you may find yourself asking where you can sign up to save the world.

What the Frack Happened? is directed by co-author Gina Rose Powell.

After the December 10 performance at Pico Union Project, What the Frack Happened? will have additional performances at Citizen Change Theatre’s workshop in Palms.

Pico Union Project, 1153 Valencia St., Pico Union; Sat.-8pm.; through December 10. Additional performances at Citizen Change Theatre Workshop, 10766 Westminster Ave., Palms; Fri. Dec. 16, 8pm. Sat. Dec. 17, 8pm.; (310) 922-7618, citizenchangetheatre.com . Running time: one hour without intermission.