Fou Fou Ha! clowns around conventions in ‘Whoa-Man!’

“Whoa-Man!” is an avant-garde clown show that highlights the fool character to show audiences what’s true.

That’s the aim of Maya Lane, founder of the performance troupe Fou Fou Ha!, who says, “No one takes [fools] seriously … but being outside the norm gives them leverage.”

Her message seems to be getting across. After sold-out runs at San Francisco’s Shelton Theater, “Whoa-Man” opens this weekend for two performances at the Great Star Theatre in Chinatown.

Lane, aka Mama Fou, created the neo-cabaret-clown-theater-dance-performance group 15 years ago after extensive studies in performance, everything from modern dance to European street theater, and even the tradition of the court jester.

She also runs a thriving therapy practice, counseling individuals and couples.

Her practice inspired the specifics of “Whoa-Man!,” which she says explores the contemporary “dick pic and selfie culture” through “the lens of the mask” — with clowning.

“What is real and what is fake? Can we accept ourselves with all the flaws?” are questions Lane has worked through with clients. In “Whoa-Man!,” the audience examines the same issues, using comedy and play.

Talented members of the Fou Fou Ha! crew (who have performed at the Edwardian Ball and New Bohemia NYE) bring female archetypes to life in “Whoa-Man!” Wearing fabulous wigs and attire, Allegra Misonznick-Davidson as the Workaholic, Courtney Cavagnero as the Sex Object, Janelle La Riza as the Perfect Barbie Girl and Karenna Weil as the Outcast are funny as they personify their characters’ unrealistic ideals. But they also invite introspection.

Still, “Whoa-Man!” is anything but a quiet experience. The audience is encouraged to participate (loud cheers are welcome) in the high jinks onstage.

The joy also comes from what Lane calls “an alchemical relationship between the audience and the performers.”

As the show moves from a small underground space to one nearer tourist locations such as Pier 39 and Chinatown (not to mention its run during Super Bowl season), Lane promises an enjoyable experience for everyone, whether she’s a grandma from Missouri or veteran performer from San Francisco.

Fou Fou Ha! presents Whoa-Man!
Where: Great Star Theatre, 636 Jackson St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 29-30
Tickets: $10 to $20

Maya Lekach

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