Impressions fly in ‘Walken in his Shoes’ play at the Fringe Festival


The Walken in His Shoes cast members from left to right, Brandon Howell, Michael Howell, Stephanie Howell, Ruben Rosthennhausler, Luke Howell. (Luke Howell)

There is something wonderful about five Christopher Walken impressionists interacting at once. Essentially, that’s the point of this light comedy produced and written by Ruben Rosthenhausler, and weirdly enough, it works.

The play is an hour’s worth of the exploits of The Christopher Walken Club, a group of five earnest admirers of the American icon and movie star, who love him unconditionally — which is to say, equally for “The Deer Hunter” and “Balls of Fury,” for his acting genius, for the height of his hair and for the manic precision of his cowbell needs.

Practically everyone in the program, and everyone onstage, has the last name of either Howell or Rosthenhausler: Ruben also plays a club member; Leah Rosthenhausler directs the play and emcees the pageant-within-the-play; and Howells named Brandon, Stephanie, Luke, Matt and Michael perform. This sets up a small problem in that three of the actors playing club members either are, or could be, brothers. The production avoids confusion the same way the Marx Brothers did: by making each character an outlandish stereotype (all the better to set off their Walkens, too). So we’ve got a Southern, queenly homosexual, an awkward guy, a Mexican-American, a woman and a guy who talks a lot like Jar Jar Binks. The jokes built around each persona don’t land nearly as well as their Walken riffs, which are splendid.

That’s true for the overall story as well — the conflict surrounding the “Walken in his Shoes” pageant isn’t as good as the pageant itself, in which each character doesn’t so much imitate Walken as pay tribute to a facet of his Walkenness. Luke Howell’s video segments of the club’s Walken-oriented PSA outreach to children and adults are an absurd delight, and somehow the joke never gets old. At the end, the plot gets thrown out altogether so the whole cast can perform a crowd-pleasing power ballad; it’s the right choice. The play is great when it sticks to the Walken impressions, which provide superbly odd clang and dissonance. More cowbell, please.

Walken in his Shoes
Tuesday at 7:15 p.m., Thursday at 10 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Redrum at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW. 866-811-4111. www.capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a Fringe button. 60 minutes.

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