It’s a wonderful word, isn’t it? It sounds just like what it is: a boorish bumpkin.
And Matt Walley makes a wonderful oaf in Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre’s production of the same name.
Walley and Wolfe Bowart (who also directs) created “Oaf,” which was commissioned by the theater.
It’s an hour of physical theater — almost everything said is told through body movements.
We first see Walley’s finger as it pokes through a closed curtain and points and beckons to an audience member in the front row. It takes a couple of pointings and beckonings before she realizes she’s suppose to climb on the stage. She is then handed drumsticks — we still don’t see anything but the hand — and an upside-down pail is pushed beside her.
This process is repeated until Walley has a mini band playing, much to the delight of the capacity audience.
Finally, the curtain opens and we see the Oaf.
He is trapped in a locked metal band around his waist. The keys come out as he tries to find freedom. It takes a bit for him to find a key that works. Once free, he somehow gets trapped into more locked contraptions. More keys come out. In between the quest for a lockless life, he has to run and play a circus strong man, a mad man and an animal man for an unseen audience behind the curtain across the back of the stage.
There’s a hope that comes with this production: They will take work, but with persistence we can find solutions, find freedom from the shackles that bind us.
It’s funny. Very funny. But the real joy in this piece is watching Walley, who is a talented physical clown. His face contorts, his body bends, his hands tell captive tales.
He has a warmth that compels you to his side; you want him to conquer those chains and break free of a circus life that has kept him trapped.
And Bowart’s direction is clean and precise, allowing the audience to become immersed in the storytelling.
Physical theater is too rare in these parts. Scoundrel & Scamp’s founding artistic director, Bryan Falcòn, clearly gets that: This piece of magical movement isn’t a one-off. In December, Scoundrel & Scamp will premiere Bowart’s “Cloud Soup.” A silent “oh, yes!” to the company for supporting and staging enticing new works.