Pardon the somewhat lateness of this one, real life does intrude like the violent pest that it is. But this post starts on the day of Valentine, the Patron Saint of lovers and the Antagonist Saint of Whiny, Lonely Losers…I won’t say which camp I belong to, but let’s just say it’s the second one and distracting myself with sweet and funky theatre seemed like the right thing t do (it almost always is, really). So it was off to Arts Court for my second visit to Undercurrents 2015, and more rollicking theatrical action.
First up that night was a return trip to the high seas as an Ottawa fav’rit show got itself back onto the stage. After a successful slot in the Gladstone’s season lineup last year, Parry Riposte’s MUCH ADO ABOUT FECKIN’ PIRATES was ready to make its assault on Undercurrents. Pairing Ottawa Theatre royalty Margo MacDonald (back in Undercurrents after helping kick it off years ago with the great SHADOWS) and Richard Gelinas as two squabbling pirates, bound and confined to the crow’s nest for fighting over the fate of a parrot, the show (directed by AL Connors) takes a very unique approach to its storytelling. Following a structure, and yet also mainly improvised based on suggestions the audience votes on ahead of time, Margo and Richard are practically immobile for 95% of the show, relying solely on their improvisational wits and fake pirate accents to keep the audience rapt with attention. Thankfully, watching these two bicker and snipe and make up nonsense about prates is something I could watch for hours on end. They even managed to seamlessly weave tentacle porn into the show I caught, so clearly I can die fulfilled anytime now, I don’t know about you. All I do know is that you’d be a right knave if you missed your chance to see these two ridiculously gifted comedians do what they do best…argue like pirates. They should bring this show back EVERY year.
An intermission then, during which I happily caught another performance of Trevor Copp’s wordless physical theatre show AIR, and I greatly benefitted from a repeat viewing (oh, he was making a FIRE! Got it, Stag Hunter, got it) no to mention catching a new short piece, FLIGHT, that he hadn’t performed when I first caught his show. Very brilliant and inspiring.
Soon after it was back into the Theatre for Theatre Brouhaha’s much-acclaimed PUNCH-UP by writer/director Kat Sandler. Starring Caitlin Driscoll, Colin Munch and Tim Walker in a King of Comedy-esque misadventure of hilarious proportions. Lonely schlub Duncan (Walker) falls head over heels for ‘the saddest girl in the world’ (Driscoll), and makes a bet that he can make her laugh…and if he can’t, the consequences are dire indeed. To help him on his bizarre quest, he kidnaps down-on-his-luck comedian Pat (Munch) to teach him how to be funny. We quickly learn, however, that Duncan is completely unable to understand even the most basic rudiments of comedy, and the simple desire to make someone laugh becomes an epic, Herculean task, and might just get a few people killed.
This show deserves all the hype its gotten and a few barrels more…Kat Sandler is clearly a mad genius, and she’s assembled a perfect cast for one of the funniest shows you’ll ever see. Improv mainstay Colin Munch is viciously funny as the glowering, bitter Pat, paired magnificently with Tim Walker’s inhumanly inept Duncan, who only seems to be able to make people stop laughing at him when he’s actually trying to make them do just that. And Caitlin Driscoll’s tragic Brenda is the walking, talking example of one of the points about comedy Pat tries to explain to Duncan…the sadder her life gets, the more we in the audience can’t help but laugh. Maybe we’re all just awful people, but we’re awful and laughing, so I’ll take it. As I write this there’s only one more showing of PUNCH-UP in Undercurrents, and whatever you have to do to make it out to that show, DO THAT THING. This is dark and funny at its darkly funniest. Rather perfect for Valentine’s Day, really…
I’ll be back at Undercurrents on Wednesday myself, to catch two more new shows (and maybe taste some beer from them Dominion City folk in between)…hope to see some of you folk there. Get on out and support the brightest spot in a cold, cold February! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)