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‘Feast of Fools’ Is Evening of Laughs

March 16, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Geoff Hoyle is a scholar but more important for audiences, he’s exceedingly funny.

The English performer’s ″Feast of Fools,″ which he also wrote, opened off-Broadway Thursday night at the Westside Arts Theater.

It keeps an audience laughing all evening.

One example. Two tuxedoed waiters, one haughty and the other a clumsy slob, take turns appearing from behind a center screen. They finally fight - behind the screen, of course. The audience sees Hoyle’s head sticking out from behind the screen, on the floor with a foot bearing down on his neck.

Rather than verbal jokes, most of the evening consists of such visual humor. Some of it would look familiar to those who recall the clowns of vaudeville and burlesque. But Hoyle is fresh with old material as well as new, and makes it all funny.

Hoyle, who has studied mime and theater and whose childhood heros were variety show comics, divides his work into eight parts, relating fools through the ages. One of the fool’s functions, he writes in program notes, was to mock the establishment, as the court jester who sometimes was the only person able to tell the king some basic truths.

The ″Feast of Fools″ sketch includes some audience participation. Hoyle designated part of the audience as bishops, himself as bishop of fools in the annual festival and the rest of the audience as 12th-century French peasants who hurl imaginary dung balls at the bishops.

Next came two characters from 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte. One equated wealth and virility, which Hoyle said in his opening remarks was ″a silly Renaissance conceit with no relevance to the man of today.″

The performer often used masks over the top half of his face. Some sketches contained broad vulgarity, such as pratfalls caused by slipping on his own spit.

Act 2 entered present times - a tedious old gent on a stage making a meandering plea for funds, telling a long joke without a punchline. He’d drive you crazy in life but Hoyle’s audience was weak with laughter. He was followed by balloon-nosed Mr. Sniff, who found bad smells from one side of the audience and good from the other, and by ″Spare,″ in which Hoyle donned a coat, over three pants legs and three feet, and danced.

″Feast of Fools″ has been performed in La Jolla and San Francisco, Calif., Washington, Toronto and Seattle. Producers here are Raymond L. Gaspard, Charles H. Duggan and Drew Dennett by arrangement with Randall Kline.

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