Send in the Clowns!

In his mostly one-man show The First 100 Years, Geoff Hoyle plays Jack Proust, a once-famous music hall comic and silent film star living out his last years in an abandoned theater scheduled for demolition; Hoyle's daughter, Kailey, plays a homeless kid who hangs out in the hall, intrigued by the aging entertainer. Through a series of physical comedy vignettes, Proust offers the kid glimpses of his storied career and the characters who played parts in it, from his Aunt Vesta to an old music hall impresario. Like Charlie Chaplin's film The Kid, The First 100 Years mixes slapstick with sentiment as oldster and youngster bond over their uncertain futures.

Hoyle, who just spent a year-and-a-half on Broadway as Zazu the Hornbill in The Lion King, recently returned to the Bay Area to play Joxer Daly in ACT's production of Juno and the Paycock, but The First 100 Years is Hoyle as many audiences remember him from his early days clowning with the New Pickle Circus, where he practiced his craft with fellow physical comedian Bill Irwin. The strengths he's honed as an actor (in dramatic productions like ACT's Tempest) meet the clown's art of loose-limbed physicality and rubbery-faced expressiveness in this show, which previews Friday at 8 p.m. (and runs through July 11) at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $29.50-45; call (510) 845-4700.

In other local clowning news, the San Francisco Physical Theater Collective will make its debut in MatterClatter, a collection of short works employing physical comedy and commedia dell'arte. Former Pickle Circus clown Joe Krienke mixes dance and slapstick in "He Must Stand," while clown duo Minke Asylum reprise the work they've done for Popcorn Anti-Theater's rolling performance series. Look for stilt-walking masked creatures in "Lowell and Zippy Go for a Walk," Bunraku puppet striptease, and a Dr. Seuss-like poetry adaptation of Edward Lear when the show plays at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts, 1519 Mission (at 11th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 447-2738.

-- Heather Wisner

 
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