BWW Review: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (ABRIDGED) at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, April 5, I had the pleasure of seeing a phenomenally performed comedy about comedy! As expected, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT has delivered another high quality show, THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (ABRIDGED) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Not only is it highly entertaining to watch, but I feel my takeaway from it has helped make me a better person, which to me is the ultimate sign of success for any show!
When multi-talented actors like James J. Moran, Rick Bennett, and Chris Brooks are the cast members, three cast members are all the show needs, since each one brings such a strong stage presence that shines brightly in this comedy genre. Under the brilliant direction of Kris McMurray, this stellar cast of three all give amazing performances, as individuals and with the three gelling together as a group showing excellent stage chemistry and dynamics. They play off each other seamlessly, including through multiple costumes and changes of characters within the characters. They all play fictional version of themselves, narrating and demonstrating fictional or slightly altered true stories about the history of comedy. Some audience members get called up on stage, which enhances the quality of the production. Most importantly, all three cast members are clearly having a good time, the whole time, sending out positive energy that radiates through the audience.
The sound effects are amazing, perfectly timed and very effective. Theme songs from various sitcoms are frequently played during costume changes that occur with impressive efficiency, due largely to help from numerous people backstage. Off of stage, left of stage left, there is a projection screen that, at times during the show displays images of various people, as part of the show, some images with comedic explanations, while others become comedic due to a lack of an explanation.
Many sharp and often subtle references are made throughout the show, probably many more than I picked up on. Even the Star Wars franchise is twice referenced. There are references to Monty Python and to George Carlin's famous "seven words that can't be said on television." The Abbott & Costello, "Who's On First," bit gets referenced. A nod to Charlie McCarthy is made, but with the comedic replacement of his first name to Joe. Even the U.S. Supreme Court is spoofed with puppets and strong ventriloquist skills from the cast. The greatest reference, however, is a physical reference to the style of Charlie Chaplin, displayed at the end of the first act. With a strobe light on, the actors genuinely appear as if they are on a screen in a classic Charlie Chaplin movie. This looks totally authentic, and was brilliantly performed. I hope at some point, a video recording is made of this scene, so the actors can see how amazing they look on stage, from the audience's perspective.
There is a lot of slap-stick, including characters getting hit where it counts (simulated, I hope.) There is also a lot of overt ethnic and religious satire. What I found fascinating is that for the first time in my life, I became consciously aware of a direct correlation between how the perceived comedic value of both verbal and physical humor often depends on the very same principle. While it can often seem hilarious when other people's cultures are farcically stereotyped and mocked through comedy, I don't find scenes funny when my own culture, ethnicity, Faith, or God is being ridiculed, just like how it is hilarious watching other guys get physically hit where it counts, but I don't find it funny when it happens to me. Realizing that others likely feel the same about their cultures, I am grateful that this show helped make me a more culturally aware and sensitive person, a positive and welcome bonus to the show's comedic entertainment value!
For mature audiences, I highly recommend THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (ABRIDGED), which is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 PM through April 27, 2019. For tickets, please call the box office at 860-829-1248.