What would happen if The Ladies Man (aka Tim Meadows) of SNL fame, ate a cookie every time he concluded one of his ribald reenactments instead of bellowing “Aaand scene!” Betchya he’d end up growing large enough to fill the (enthusiastic) pants of TWO improvisatory actors rather than just one (all the while replacing one sensual obsession with another).
Minus any sort of unhealthy sensual obsession, David Fickas and Pam Cook have set out to do just that in their two person comedy extravaganza: EATING COOKIES with DAVID AND PAM. Put on via Drama ¾, Fickas’ production company, in conjunction with “Oh My Ribs!” entertainment, Fickas admits, “Pam and I have been planning for years to do the show that we don’t plan.”
I enter the theatre’s lobby at Oh my Ribs on Santa Monica Blvd. On the bar is a gift basket filled with festive cellophane bags of cookies…gobs and gobs of cookies, mostly pink in color or pinky off-whitish in hue—primarily circus animal in nature but with some dusty white and strawberry wafers curiously held together by what one can only assume is cream (with a little edible spackling paste mixed in for good measure—How DO they do it?). The bags are free with the purchase of a ticket for the modest admission price of $10.00. Wine and other beverages are but a mere pay-what-you-can donation and I contentedly prepare to hunker down for the night. I enter the theatre.
There is a guitar onstage.
Pre-show music emanates from the overhead speakers, sounding suspiciously like Johnny Cash—only, not so much. The soundtrack turns out to be an album just released by former “Cocoon” star and Quaker Oats enthusiast Wilfred Brimley. He is apparently not dead (yet) and very much still the virtuoso confirms Fickas’ Drama ¾ partner-in-crime Brice Beckham. “Home on the Range” folksilly drones on in the background and a singer of another voice eventually trills above Brimley’s. “That’s not Wilfred Brimley,” exclaims Beckham. “Who is that?” Beckham’s partner-in-crime, Josh Uranga, suddenly chimes in, “The other guy from ‘Cocoon’…?” Ah, the improvisation has not yet even begun and already the theatre has become a hotbed of clever and impromptu quips!
The lights then dim as though warning the audience not to start the show before the show and David and Pam alight the stage to enthusiastic and giddy applause! David speaks to the audience in a manner that makes you want to laugh before he has even opened his mouth. “This is a show that was unplanned but we’ve been planning on doing this show for years… This is our first time doing it and we’ll be doing it a second time and that will be the first time we do it a second time…”
Fickas then explains the rules to a rapt Pam Cook (who already knows what he is going to say despite the fact that he hasn’t yet said it yet) as he determines that their “lighting guy” will know when a scene has ended as they will approach the plate of cookies on the right hand side of the stage and each take a bite. Fickas then punctuates this declaration by force feeding the unsuspecting, kid-sisterish actress a spackle-pasted wafer. Pam coughs and gags on the delicacy for a brief second as its pointy shards jarringly attempt to slide down her gullet. The lights begin to dim as Fickas can be heard saying, “Sorry, I should have picked the animal one ‘cause that one was sharper. You’re gonna have a lot of sharp in your mouth now, and dust too: Sharp, dusty cookie mouth. You want some water?”
The performance lasts nearly an hour and a half as the audience is transported to various and sundry environments all determined within the psyche of the actors; all endings by the pull of the cookies like some theatrically human Pavlovian experiment. The first scene encompasses a bus ride initiated by Cook, who has dubbed herself (at the suggestion of Fickas) “The best bus driver in the world!” There, Fickas makes his way to the back of the “bus” almost absentmindedly commenting, “Oh, there’s a guitar on the bus. I wonder how that got here.” On it, he meets a few curious ladies all played by Cook. Most noted is Cook’s rendition of a school girl “in trouble” as she consistently picks her nose and then rubs her finger on Fickas’ pant leg. “I’m in trouble at school… My mom has a boyfriend. I can tell ‘cause they’re always naked.” Fickas abruptly then excuses himself by admitting, “I can’t tell if you’re picking your nose or smelling your finger constantly.”
Additional scenes include Pam as a Jelly Bean lady working at Coffee Bean who hates Jelly Beans, all the while playfully mocking any and all improv rules, “I don’t like Jelly Beans ‘cause I’m not supposed to like ‘em in this scene. “ Fickas protests, “But it’s a bean that’s colorful and tastes like sugar!” Pam randomly explains, “No. It reminds me of Vietnam!”
In a scene wherein Pam is prepping to audition to interview folks on the street for the cooking channel, she interrogates people from the audience, picks me, and is distraught and disoriented when I answer a “yes” or “no” question with the word “si”. “Oh…I don’t know Spanish…” she dejectedly utters and jettisons the entire idea, though one is not surprised at this judging by the self-defeatist nature of her initial and hilarious character.
We are also fortunate enough to witness Pam giving David a belated birthday gift in a ridiculously large gift bag. Reams and reams of crepe paper and crinoline adorn the bag’s insides as Fickas gingerly, yet manically pulls each and every piece out as if to save them all for wallpaper. This entire ritual waxes completely silent aside from the occasional and sheepish observation from Pam: “You don’t have to save it… Do you need help? It’s open now, you can probably just take it… take it out…” After all is said and done, the sole survivor of the bag’s de-gutting is a baby, a little, teeny wind-up baby and it is loved by all, especially Fickas.
Rounding out the evening is a Fast Money re-enactment of “Family Feud” fueled by random and unplanned questions such as, “What part of the body is not the leg?”, “Name a remedy to induce death.” “In what state is ghost rape legal?”, “What kind of pants do you wear to a book burning?” “If a vagina falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Finally, the guitar at the back of the stage is utilized for much merriment, music and mirth-making in an ultimate ode, wherein the actors don’t use ANY of the words thrown out by the audience…until the very end when they are simply uttered randomly and only once in an hilarious and somewhat unexpected, anti-improvisatory nod.
After all music has stopped, the witticisms waned and the laughter has lessened (but not really), there are but a few cookies left on the plate on the side of the stage and the show ends as quickly as it began as David asks Pam, “So, we have a cookie and then we do…like…a curtain call…?”
EATING COOKIES with DAVID AND PAM will be performed a second time, a first time, at a Los Angeles theatre near you, but don’t hold your breath for any details, ‘cause, as of yet, it is all UNPLANNED…
To get a taste of this duo’s performance style, you may view their “Audition Tape” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9acARytuKY
For more information on any and all upcoming performances, please visit Drama ¾’s Twitter Page at: https://twitter.com/drama34prod And/or their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Drama34Productions
And/or their website, soon to be re-launched, again and anew, next week: http://www.drama34.com/