In Kendall Cornell's Soon-to-Be-World-Famous Women's Clown Troupe's occasionally hilarious though disappointingly uneven collection of comic sketches, Not Just for Shock Value: A Femmes-Clowns Assemblage, the game nine-member troupe isn't afraid of twisting their faces and bodies unattractively, making strange noises, and assuming "unladylike" positions. Not your mother's female clowns, they make Ball and Burnett look tame.
The troupe eschews traditional big-shoes-and-baggy-pants garb for colorful costumes, silly hats, and red-ball noses. Early vignettes set the show's tone of dark, tongue-in-cheek satire with a markedly feminist bent: Company members dance across the stage like a graceful corps de ballet, their bizarre costumes contrasting comically with reverent expressions; three clown-witches huddle around an imaginary pot, cackling like Macbeth's weird sisters as they gleefully mime tossing in earwax, spit, vomit, urine, and other innards; and bimbo-voiced Kathie Horejsi describes how women should dress and act at cocktail parties while Virginia Venk as a drunken male party guest gropes her lasciviously.
The show, which had a December 2006 work-in-progress incarnation, still feels unfinished. Some sketches are priceless: Venk as a Joplinesque 1960s singer; always-adorable Ishah Janssen-Faith miming the opening of a Pandora's box of the world's evils; Judi Lewis Ockler's preening muscleman and human Geiger counter; Horejsi's Morris dance with Melinda Ferraraccio; Mona Le Roy's bizarre back-wall poses and mock seriousness in declaring that miming is "inappropriate" and a worth-the-ticket-price-alone triumph of comedic costuming and staging that features middle-aged mothers-from-hell, in terry cloth turbans and bathrobes covering huge sagging breasts, parading out on stilts while haranguing the audience with shrewish platitudes.
Julie Plumettaz and Maria Smushkovich are also delightful throughout. But some pieces fall flat, such as an unfunny boyfriend-angst monologue in which Emily James — who shines elsewhere — slowly deconstructs like a Tennessee Williams heroine. As the run continues, audience response will show Cornell what's truly funny. If she hones her diamond-in-the-rough, she may be able to delete "soon-to-be" from the troupe's name.
Presented by Six Figures Theatre Company at the West End Theatre, 263 W. 86th St., NYC. April 12-28. Schedule varies. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.