BWW Reviews: Strawshop's BLACK COMEDY Brings Comedy Into the Light

Michael Patten and Brenda Joyner in
Black Comedy
Photo credit: John Ulman

When physical comedy is done well it can be a beautiful thing. I still marvel at a seven-minute bit David Hyde Pierce did with an ironing board on the show Frasier (seriously, go look it up). But good physical comedy is not easy. Fortunately for us the cast of Strawberry Theatre Workshop's production of "Black Comedy" are more than up to the task as they presented one of the funniest displays of physical comedy I've seen in town since "Boeing Boeing" a few years back.

In "Black Comedy" it's a big night for Brindsley (Richard Ngyuen Sloniker) who is having a wealthy art connoisseur around to take a look at his most recent piece and possibly make his career. Plus, his new fiancé Carol (Brenda Joyner) has invited her judgmental Father Col. Melkett (Michael Patten) around to meet Brindsley. So in order to impress them he has "borrowed" all of the nice furniture from his neighbor Harold's (Rob Burgess) apartment while he's away. But while preparing for the party the main fuse of the building has blown out, plunging them into utter darkness. If all that chaos weren't enough, Brindsley's other neighbor Miss Furnival (Emily Chisholm) has stumbled in seeking refuge, Harold has returned early prompting Brindsley to need to get the furniture switched back before the lights come back on and Brindsley's sexy ex-girlfriend Clea (Allison Strickland) has wandered in to try and get Brindsley back.

It's already a wonderful setup for a farce but what author Sir Peter Shaffer has done is set the show in the dark (so to speak). You see when the lights are on for the characters, the lights are out for the audience and when the lights are out for them they're on for us. So we have complete and full view of the brilliant physical comedy of people trying to maneuver through the pitch black with all of the above happening as well. At times you almost don't even care what the actors are saying as you're too busy watching the hilarious antics "in the dark".

Michael Patten and Richard Nguyen Sloniker in
Black Comedy
Photo credit: John Ulman

Director Kelly Kitchens has not only assembled a stunning ensemble but also managed to direct them with spot on timing and movement and in such a way that we completely buy that they can't see a thing (even though they obviously can). And did I mention that stunning ensemble? Sloniker, who already showed off his physical comedy prowess in the aforementioned "Boeing Boeing", shows off what he can really do when put to the task as he manages some truly astounding physical bits. But they all do. Joyner is delightful as the bubbly fiancé trying to hold it all together. Patten is hysterical as the uptight Colonel and his "in the dark" facial expressions and double takes are priceless. Burgess and Chisholm each brings in their own ample laughs as the two quirky neighbors caught in the storm. Strickland adds in some deliciously devilish bumps in the road for Brindsley not to mention that perfect air of the naughty 60's bedroom farce. And MJ Sieber pops in for a few brief moments of absolute comedy gold as the power company worker sent to fix the issue. If all of that weren't enough (and it is more than enough) Strawshop also gives us a little short before the main feature as they also present one of David Ives' brilliant bits from "All in the Timing" called "Sure Thing" wonderfully portrayed by Strickland, Sieber and Patten.

Take all those elements, and shake vigorously and what you have is one of the funniest and visibly hardest working shows I've seen in awhile all mixed up into a delectable cocktail of comedy. If you like to laugh then I say do not miss this one. Which is why I'm giving it a WOW with my three letter rating system (the highest rating I have). You really don't want to miss what happens in the dark.

"Black Comedy" from Strawberry Theatre Workshop performs at the Erickson Theatre through September 20th. For tickets or information visit them online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin


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