Times being what they are, you may just find yourself in the mood for a show that has nothing to do with anything that matters to anyone. The charmingly silly Karon the Barbarian at Dad’s Garage, running through August 5, fits the bill.
Karon features the talents of comic Karen Cassady, who also cowrote the show, and as the title implies, the production parodies the clashing swords and leather-clad excesses of fantasy-barbarian films like Conan.
In the show, whimpy Karon works as a janitor, mopping the floors of a tavern where toughened warriors and barbarians hang out, bragging about their battles and victories and bullying Karon whenever the chance arises. When a run-in with a terrifying troll unexpectedly ends with the troll’s defeat, the people of Karon’s village come to believe he’s a powerful barbarian, and when monsters subsequently attack the village en masse, the people naturally turn to Karon for protection.
Like a lot of great comics, Cassady uses her distinctive physical attributes — her expressive face and small stature — to great effect. There are plenty of effective bits: Karon’s sensei-figure is a leprous, chronic masturbator; the trolls are, actually, well, you know, trolls; the villain, as played by Taylor Dooley, is deliciously bizarre; death scenes are over-the-top and the wonky special effects charmingly homespun.
Cassady is a female comic, but the character Karon is male, which is fine, but one sees more missed opportunity than humor in that particular arrangement. With the release and success and discussion around Wonder Woman, this is the summer of the female warrior, and the timing seems ripe for satire. A female Karon would seemingly be a container of just the right shape and size. Moreover, other than Conan, there aren’t that many familiar examples of the barbarian genre (and it’s actually hard to remember much in particular about the Conan films), so there aren’t a ton of tropes to parody.
The cast is funny across the board, but Cassady and Dooley truly shine; some parts of the show can seem like filler until we see the hero and villain confront each other in the best and final scene.
Ushers indicate on your way into the venue that a few seats in the front rows are in the “splash zone,” so audience members who don’t mind getting a little gore can choose to sit there. I didn’t sit there, but I suppose the warning set my expectations high (or maybe more accurately: low). Either way, I was surprised that more gratuitous gore didn’t appear to greater comic effect.
In spite of this, the show still manages an overall atmosphere of giddy, stupid fun. If you’re looking to forget your troubles and laugh a little, Dad’s Garage is your spot this summer.