MR. WILLIAMS & ME Will Violet Krumbein's unorthodox methods of healing be successful? | Photo: Anya Garrett
If the theme song to "Sanford & Son" doesn't get you in a silly mood, watching a woman make out with herself will. In "Human Painkiller," UCB alum Violet Krumbein creates a world where hilariously insensitive characters interact with a cloying protagonist who just wants to make people happy. Krumbein begins by playing two people: A Holly-Hunter inspired-lesbian bar owner named Joyce, and Jezebel, the naive star of the show who seeks to provide joy to an invalid using her wits and good vibrations.
Wearing a black leotard, black tights and a gold miniskirt, Krumbein assumes more than half a dozen characters with minimal costume changes that involve hats or moustaches on a stick. Most characters come to life by their accents and mannerisms alone.
With direction by Megan Neuringer, sound design by Bill Buckendorf and tech by Jon Guttierez, Krumbein's show is a visual spectacle of a woman who makes a spectacle of herself. It wanders into dark territory (Jezebel does an erotic dance to cheer her father up after he accidentally kills her mother), and borders on the absurd (Jezebel's boyfriend is called "Happy Fun Glove" --a rubber glove full of red liquid that bounces on a balloon string), but is consistently silly as Krumbein dances between scene changes. The author is not afraid to take risks or look awkward. Can you assume multiple sexual positions with a puppet in front of strangers?
The homemade props are almost art exhibits. Consider Happy Fun Glove or the wheelchair-bound Mr. Williams whose baby-doll head sits on clothes that are fitted over flat cardboard and whose limbs are stuffed pantyhose. The show also features some confusing running gags that become funnier as they are repeated. Whenever a particular disease is mentioned, a deep male voiceover says, "It's a real disease."
Krumbein tap dances and plays the kazoo. She throws pills while singing about modern medicine. She quacks: "Flashback! Flashback!" to remind us we're going back in time. I happened to go to the show in a bad mood, and ended up laughing in spite of myself. Violet Krumbein IS the human painkiller.
• Get tickets for the next showing, Nov. 19 and 26 @ 8:00PM