Published on October 20th, 2014 | by Greg0
Going Once, Laughing Twice: New Play Skewers Art Auctions
The world of fine art auctions seems stuffy, insular, filled with too much money and the personalities that come with it- and with the passions and drama that normally attend to artists. It’s an environment worthy of skewering in parody- think of the biting inside story of ‘Exit Behind The Gift Shop’. And an auction seems like an ideal format for entertaining interactive theater.
Which brings us to the new off-Broadway show Going Once, Laughing Twice, now in performances nightly at St. Luke’s Theater. Written by Brian Jaffe (who plays the auctioneer) and directed by Eric Parness, the show recently opened and had a full house when we visited recently. Billed as a behind the scenes take on prestigious art house Chump’s, you can tell immediately that the strokes will be broad, with goofy accents and characters like Heidi Hoe (Marlain Angelides and Count Hans Und’Feete (say it out loud for a chuckle, played by Winston Shaw). The employees commiserate and bicker, leading up to the actual art auction that is the climax and final act of the show.
It starts off in good fun, as audience members are handed bidding paddles and stacks of cash, and everyone gets to wander around and look at some fairly funny faux art pieces in various lots. We ended up chatting with a few folks who were cast members, but it’s not immediately obvious, which adds to the fun- you might be talking to one of the “artists” only to have them join the action later. Towards the end of the night, you’ll have a chance to bid against everyone else, and some lucky winners will actually be able to take home some art.
But interactive theater at it’s best requires the audience to stand up and get engaged (Sleep No More), or to feel truly immersed (Tony and Tina’s Wedding), while the vast majority of Going Once, Laughing Twice is a pretty traditionally staged play, albeit one with no intermission, acts, no set changes. It feels fairly spontaneous and light, but never quite gels, with romantic relationships appearing out of nowhere and no real narrative drive. You never root for any of the characters, and never really care, and the fairly straightforward plot doesn’t add suspense. Sort of like a “murder mystery dinner” without any murder, there’s emotion and some witty dialogue but you’ll likely find your attention wandering a bit. It’s a shame too, since there is a really solid idea there, and the charming cast does their best with the material. Tickets start at 69.50, with showtimes Thursdays at 7PM and Fridays at 8PM.