Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: (Ottawa) Wunderjammer (Fringe)

Wunderjammer or I Banged Your Doppleganger (for over a half century)
by David Currie

It would be interesting to see what playwright Richard Hemphill and his cast could do with some of these sketches in a longer format.  As it is, this sketch comedy uses stock jokes and stock characters quite well, though it certainly breaks no new ground.  It is an enjoyable show and revisiting the same characters throughout the show does bond the audience to them but the show is something of an exercise in diminishing returns. 

There is a Aristocracy sketch, in the vein of Monty Python that tickled me, I don’t think I laughed out loud but I did like it.  Then there was the Bunnyland, children’s park sketch that goes dark quickly and was the highlight of the show for me.  The directing often feels happenstance, and the acting is good though inconsistent.  Each one of the actors at times seeming confused by their comedic function within the sketches.  All of this is ok, the show works - it gets laughs if you are in the mood to laugh.  Good.

The problem with Wunderjammer, and I find it difficult to bring this up, is that it looks for comedy in uncomfortable old places.   One sketch has women trying to sell men to a horny middle easterner.  There isn’t really any context given for this, so it just comes across as an uncomfortable cultural critique.  Then there are the dumb-girl model sketches.  The writing in these is incredibly good, one- liners soar through the air but at the end of the day, it seems sexist.  Especially, as that sketch is paired with a sketch about dumb girl scientists. Both sketches feel like they have been pulled straight out of the 1950s or 60s.  There are countless gay jokes and the play ends on a transphobic one-liner.  And that’s the problem, Wunderjammer at times feels like watching a minstrel show.

The brilliance of Bunnyland and the potential of the Aristocracy sketches get washed a way in a sea of tired homophobia, sexism and one instance of transphobia.

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