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October 23, 2016
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When life hands you lemons...

Steven Henry Erdman’s alter ego, the Human Lard dog, enthralled the sold-out crowd at the NaCL in Highland Lake.

I’ve never been very good at making lemonade, and truth be told-don’t care for its bitter aftertaste. There are times, though, when we have to weigh our options and just squeeze the darned fruit and hope for the best. I’m grateful that my truck is not a lemon, but getting around still proved to be a challenge this past week and thankfully, I got out a few times before being temporarily grounded.

With summer upon us, my schedule has once again blossomed, and I’ve discovered conflicts already cropping up in my garden of entertainment destinations. Unwilling to choose, I placed a call to the box office at the Forestburgh Playhouse (www.fbplayhouse.org) to exchange my seats for “Guys and Dolls,” which opens this week and was threatening to interfere with my plans to experience country pop sensation Lady Antebellum at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) on the same night.

Unsuspecting that driving was about to become an issue, I zipped over to the playhouse, switched out my seats, and and took a sneak peek at some of the cast rehearsing “The Oldest Established,” a classic tune from the classic show. By the time this column hits newsstands, I’ll have seen the opening season production, so stay tuned.

My next scheduled stop was the North American Cultural Laboratory (www.nacl.org) and its presentation of “The Human Lard Dog and the Band of Shy” (www.houseoflard.com). The title alone confounded me, but I was more than curious, having heard little else being talked about (online and in the streets) during the preceding weeks. The website raised even more questions like “Are you now or have you ever been a human Lard Dog?” and the list of band interests on the Facebook page included “He’s a Ploop,” “Mr. Peeples” and “colanders, noodles and peanuts.” Making my reservation, I expressed befuddlement to the theatre’s co-founder, Tannis Kowalchuk, who promised that the experience was going to be “amazing.”

When I heard that the show was sold out two days prior, more intrigue set in, and I arrived early, to secure a good spot, surrounded by kids, kids... everywhere. The al fresco spaghetti dinner before the show provided terrific sustenance, and although I eschewed the lemonade, the camaraderie was fantastic as I mingled and schmoozed (attorneys at law) with friends and newcomers from far and wide. The excitement was palpable, and upon entering the theatre, rose to a fever pitch.

Artwork by Steven Henry Erdman adorned the walls, hung from the ceiling and was handed out to the little ones (I snagged a lard-dog-on-a-stick) as the audience was instantly transported to a musical world that could be described as akin to Pee Wee’s Playhouse on a salty (pretzels were everywhere), sugary high. Erdman, backed by Tamika McClellan and Nicole Holloway (The La’Delles) made his energetic entrance after the band marched through the crowd, New Orleans style. The musicians (Marc Switko, Cindy Rickmond, Peter Florance, Curtis Hasselbring, Jeremy Beck and Jay Collins) sounded, as promised, amazing—and Jason Dole (“he’s a ploop, treat him nice”) joined Master of Ceremonies Duke Scoppa, accordion man Doug Rogers and (gasp!) Grandma Michelle in blowing the roof off of the place.

Song after frenetic song belted out to the crowd swept the children (and adults) into the Lard Dog’s world and held us (yep, even me!) in thrall as the show built in momentum. Pelting the kids with balloons, beach balls and pretzels caused them to shriek with glee as they interacted with the show throughout. Projected images played across the giant screen with mini-movies, song titles, cartoons and more as the show careened (seemingly) out of control, dizzying in scope, thrilling (IMHO) to experience.

Having been informed that LARD was an acronym, and that one has to attend a show to discover its meaning, I hesitate to share, yet feel that I must. “Life’s A Real Dream” is beyond apropos for the giddy, ridiculous, silly and psychedelic universe that Erdman and Co. have created and my fervent wish is to see this production thrive. Just when I thought that lemonade was bitter, it turns out to be sweet after all, and I have the man-child known as the Human Lard Dog to thank. Look out, Pee Wee, there’s a new kid in town.