Los Angeles Theater Review: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY [ABRIDGED] (Falcon Theatre in Burbank)

by Tony Frankel on April 1, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles

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THIS COMEDY IS TRAGIC

Painfully unfunny to the point of torture, Falcon Theatre’s production of The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) puts a nail in the coffin of vaudeville and burlesque, and left me stone-faced.

Lacking inventiveness and freshness, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor’s script trammels us with a trajectory of comedy from its birth (plastic dolls shooting out from between one actor’s legs into the house) to its death (this production). Like throwing rotten tomatoes at a barn, a few of the fart jokes, pratfalls, and even entire routines (props pulled from a patients torso) splatted on target. But at almost two hours, this thing couldn’t live up to its title by finding a proper balance or tone to paint a picture of comedy’s evolution or the cream-of-the-crop characters and sketches throughout history (among many, many others, quick bits were done in the style of Sesame Street, Commedia dell’Arte and Abbott and Costello).

As humorous as a crazy clown who squirts acid in your eye from a plastic flower in a lapel, this show never had a shot, even before rehearsals began. Joke after antiquated joke after foreseeable joke after groaner joke, the opening night crowd rarely guffawed and at times had to be coaxed by an intrepid threesome (Zehra Fazal, Marc Ginsburg, Mark Jacobson) who simply couldn’t spin this morbid material into comic gold.

Don’t get me wrong: Our capable pranksters offered personality-packed double-takes as they persevered while spouting a plethora of puerile puns without puffing and panting. But they lacked innate comic chops (director Jerry Kernion had them running their poolkehs off as if they were fleeing from the Gestapo). Material as stale as gum underneath a seat at the Orpheum Theatre needs world-class buffoons in the vein of Burt Lahr, Ed Wynn and Fanny Brice. But I doubt that even our greatest modern yuckster actors (Roger Bart, Bill Irwin, Nathan Lane) could have made this evening tolerable. Even plastic chickens are on life support after this head-splitting wreckage.

photos by Sasha A Venola

The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)
Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank
ends on April 23, 2017
for tickets, call 818.955.8101 or visit Falcon

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