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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Black Romedy (Review)

Black Romedy sold itself as: “One hour. Two shows. Eternal satisfaction.” The honest trailer would read: “50 minutes. Two short plays. Pretty funny.” The first half of the show, 14 Days Left, written by Jared Kirkwood and directed by Kirkwood and Richard Finn, follows David as he attempts to ask his office crush, Angie, out on a date. We see David’s devastating inability to muster up the courage align beautifully with the overzealous nature of his workmates, who confidently flirt, gossip and crack ‘classic boss jokes’ all over the place. The leading man, Jared Kirkwood, portrays all of these different office stock characters with a brilliant consistency and winning charm. This versatility is a credit to Kirkwood’s skill, as he gave an engaging and earnest performance. His female counterpart, Sandra Malesic, was similarly charming, but Kirkwood’s zeal and energy definitely stole the show. This lack of distinction does not fall to the responsibility of the actress by any means, but is the fault of an underdeveloped character, who appears to be at David’s whim from Day One, and principally has agency as a ‘babe’ who can’t fix her own computer and giggles a lot. The shocking twist, as David eventually murders his office competition for Angie’s affections, is really not too shocking, and adds very little to this otherwise sweet love story. Mostly I just wanted to give our protagonist a good shake and tell him how close he was to being incredibly happy, which made for a frustrating but enjoyable viewing experience. The games which ran throughout the show, aided by elegant lighting, and the repeated gags, struck a great pace, meaning that the audience was never bored and was carried on a healthy dramatic arc. When the lights went down, we were all still chuckling.

Fight the Fat, which made up the second half of this saga, was written by award-winning Arthur Meek and directed by Richard Finn, starring Hannah Botha and AJ Murtagh. This story rather less romantically “follows two dirt poor and destitute actors… [as] their dubious educational shows about healthy eating fail to support them as they struggle with life’s hurdles; death and other stuff.” (bats.co.nz) Although the actors were committed, energetic, and often had brilliant timing, this show could not outgrow its script. Jocular references to cancer, and paedophilia charges, were sorely unamusing, and the plot seemed to sputter itself silent three-quarters of the way through. I was left with the impression that the false ending around the 20-minute mark should have been the legitimate one. The most distinctly memorable moment of the piece to me was when the school bully was inexplicably the only school-age character portrayed with an African-American accent, which to me is a faux pas simply for indulging stereotypes regarding the race of muggers, but also shows a lack of common sense given that we are seeing the scene at a through-and-through Kiwi school programme. Although there were clever set changes and an endearing employment of sock puppets, the brand of humour in these cases was mundanely offensive with none of the skill and wit to give it licence to be outrageous. The children’s health songs, and charismatic street dancing, were humorous, and the characters fairly well rounded and developed, but overall, the second half of Black Romedy diminished the strong impression left by the first. Overall, as two short two-handers with a common director, I was surprised by the contrast between the humour of these two plays: 14 Days Left struck a charming, universally awkward and romantic tone, with a slightly macabre edge, while Fight the Fat was wantonly indulgent of borderline and often immature humour, which did a disservice to the skilled actors employed for the show.

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