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“So, what did you think?” my husband asked me after we attended a performance of Tall Order’s Those with 2 Clocks at the Wilma Theater. “Because I’m not entirely sure what I just watched.”
And I’m not entirely sure that wasn’t the point.
Originally conceived with Pig Iron and produced as A Hard Time at FringeArts (BSR reviewed the 2019 premiere), this show’s explicitly anti-patriarchal premise is to break down the notion that men—especially straight, white men—are and always will be funnier than women, or those beyond the binary. In fact, the description of the show in its original iteration includes the following quote from Jerry Lewis: “I don’t like any female comedians ... a woman doing comedy doesn’t offend me but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world.”
Not all of the creators/performers in Those with 2 Clocks identify as women—Mel Krodman is trans non-binary, and Jenn Kidwell uses both “she” and “they” pronouns—but as performers whom Lewis would certainly have clocked as baby-making machines, Krodman, Kidwell, and their third co-creator, Jess Conda, certainly have a lot to say about who (and what) is or is not funny.
Those with 2 Clocks is meant to challenge. Part lecture, part sketch comedy, part burlesque, and part “durational” movement performance, the show begins with an explanation of the mechanics of laughter and the different types we encounter daily. But many of the jokes in the show are deliberately un-funny. Conda explained to WHYY that many of the one-liners were pulled from the Internet to be unpacked on the stage. It’s deliberately confrontational—and it’s also delightful.
Toxic masculinity is dangerous, both intellectually and, all too often, physically, but when you peel back the layers of fragility and insecurity, as Conda, Kidwell, and Krodman do in Those with 2 Clocks, you also get a peek at how ridiculous it is. The creators/performers take this to the extreme, using silly costumes and props and involving their onstage audience (ticket-buyers can choose whether to sit in the house, or at tables on the stage itself).
Lighting designers Abigail Hoke-Brady and Amith Chandrashaker effectively realize the show’s many transitions, both between onstage genres and a burgeoning flow between the stage and the house, underscoring the unusual but irresistible invitation that closes the show.
Join the anti-patriarchal party
The creative team recommends Those with 2 Clocks for audiences 18 and up. Because as silly as it is, the show is also provocative. There are depictions of violence at the hands of both individuals and the state. And there’s also full-frontal nudity.
The nudity comes as a surprise in the show, although given its context, it probably shouldn’t have. I’ve seen plenty of male genitals in a theater—Equus and Take Me Out are the two examples that come most immediately to mind—and it’s barely registered. But it’s rare to see an exposed vulva onstage, let alone three of them, and in a nonsexual context. (At burlesque shows and many strip clubs, genitals are to be kept covered.) As a woman, I felt both comforted and confronted in this moment: I was happy to see bodies so much like my own presented in this way, and also deeply aware of how often the mere existence of a vulva, covered or not, is weaponized against the person who has it.
There are other less explicit moments in Those with 2 Clocks in which the tenuous balance of comfort and confrontation comes to the surface. But at the end there’s also an enormously satisfying gentleness and release, as the performers welcome the audience to share in the experience of dismantling the patriarchy—and have fun while doing it.
What, When, Where
Those with 2 Clocks. Created by Jess Conda, Jenn Kidwell, and Mel Krodman as Tall Order, with “Grande Doula” Rosie Hererra and DJ/composer Robi D Light. $29–$49. Live shows through October 23, 2022 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Available for streaming through November 6, 2022. (215) 546-7824) or wilmatheater.org.
Audiences must remain masked throughout the performance.
The Wilma offers wheelchair-accessible seating; call the box office to arrange and plan to arrive at least half an hour before curtain. Assistive listening devices are available at every performance, and the performances on Saturday, October 22, at 8pm and Sunday, October 23, at 2pm will be open captioned. An audio describer will also be available for the October 22 show.
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