RED WING -- Welcome to “Happy Hour.” It could be everything you don’t expect to see at the theater.
Monica Bill Barnes & Company will perform the show, which is part dance performance, part vaudeville act, and “a ripsnorting laughfest,” according to a Washington Post reviewer.
Others who have written about it agree. “’Happy Hour’ breaks all the rules of theater,” the DC Metro wrote.
A trio of actors will present the show four times in the third-floor studio at the Sheldon Theatre at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Feb. 7 and again Feb. 8.
Audience members will enter to find themselves at an after-work office party. In will come two men, played by women, who attempt to bluster and seduce their way through the party. The result is both laughable and poignant.
For the audience it’s an immersive experience, as they are more than just observers.
“We’re not genuinely cross-dressing, trying to look like men,” said Monica Bill Barnes, one of the show’s creators. “It’s clear we are two women dressed like men.
“We’re asking the audience to see us as men and as two women.”
Since “Happy Hour” was created as a comedy, she added, “We knew what the shape of the show would be.”
Audience members may get nervous or feel unsure because of the awkward interactions that take place, Barnes said.
“The two characters fail a lot. There is a lot of discomfort. We see people wincing – there is a lot of comic potential” because they empathize with the characters and may feel that ‘I’ve done that, too’.”
The difference, she pointed out, is that “This way they can laugh at it.”
Since its debut in 2015 “Happy Hour” has been performed all over the world in a wide variety of settings, from a barn in upstate New York to a village in Italy.
It was created by Barnes in collaboration with Anna Bass and Robbie Saenz de Viteri. Elisa Clark replaces Bass in the current production.
“It’s been a really wonderful show to live in,” Barnes said. Curiously, they have not found that audiences in far-flung parts of the world respond to it differently.
Nor do men appear upset over the portrayal of “toxic masculinity” by two women.
“Happy Hour” seeks to bring awareness to a specific environment, and questions the assumptions people have about gender. For example, Barnes said, do people have a different level of tolerance depending whether it’s a man or a woman crashing the party?
“We’re clearly dealing in satire,” Barnes explained. “We attempt to portray the characters as real people, though we go to some extremes” in the way theater intentionally heightens an experience.
“It all happens through dance,” she added.
Monica Bill Barnes & Company is a contemporary American dance company founded in 1997 that challenges itself to “bring dance where it doesn’t belong.”
As their website explains, company members follow their own rulebook as “they find humor in humanity’s awkward, everyday triumphs and failures.”
“Happy Hour” runs about 60 minutes, and space is limited to 50 audience members per showing. Admission is $20. Visit the box office, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.
If you go …
Who: Monica Bill Barnes & Company
What: “Happy Hour”
When: 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Feb. 7 and 8
Where: Sheldon Theatre third-floor studio
How much: $20
More info: 651-388-8700, www.sheldontheatre.org