Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Punch Up (Fringe)

Dark, Silly, Fast, Relentless
by Jason Booker
One thing this latest play by the prolific and disciplined Kat Sandler does not need is a punch up. Punching up comedy (as the piece informs) is the act of hiring someone else to clean up, rewrite, focus and dramaturge an act or script.

Why doesn’t Punch Up need this treatment? Because the unrelenting comedy, dark and silly, fast and referential, is so bang on that I don’t think you could ask for more from a Fringe show. This rollicking hour long piece exudes energy. From the fantastic music choices between scenes, the sarcastic cruelty of Pat’s opening stand-up set, the fateful dinner party at the end or even the wacky Pee-Wee Herman furnishings and lovely use of lights, everything about this play has been carefully thought out and splendidly brought to stage.
Pat – once billed as the Funniest Man Alive – has broken up with his wife, Izzy, with whom he did a double act. Bitter and failing, Pat is kidnapped by Duncan, in order to punch up Duncan. See, he met a girl who was going to jump off a building earlier that day and so Duncan made a deal with her: have dinner-breakfast with me and if I make you laugh, you re-evaluate this suicide thing; if you don’t laugh, I’ll help you meet your end. And Duncan, well, he’s not intentionally funny by himself...
The comics of this piece are superstars. Tim Walker as Duncan plays unfunny in the funniest way possible, toning down his natural skills. Colin Munch’s Pat frantically paces the stage, furious about being chained to a desk. Then Caitlin Driscoll drinks away her sorrows delivering her taped suicide letter. The crazed retelling of Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First bit is pure comedy gold.
This rendition of Punch Up is not to be missed, if you can still get a seat.

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