The Most Pathetic Guy Ever kidnaps the Funniest Man Alive to make the Saddest Girl in the World laugh.
Such is the whimsical plot of Kat Sandler’s offbeat comedy Punch Up, which whisks the audience on a whirlwind ride through two days in the lives of its hyperbolic characters: Duncan (Perry Gratton), a socially impeded loner; Brenda (Merran Carr-Wiggin), a young woman who’s convinced her love causes people to die; and Pat (Evan Hall), a washed-up divorcee comedian trapped in Duncan’s basement.
As Pat reluctantly tries to “punch up” Duncan’s comedy material (mostly hopeless knock knock jokes), the play explores what works and doesn’t in comedy, all the while eliciting laughs a minute from the enraptured audience.
In director Braydon Dowler-Coltman’s hands, Gratton, Hall, and Carr-Wiggin push Sandler’s crisp dialogue to the heights of caricature without losing the heart of the story. And make no mistake, this story has heart: at its emotional core is the humour one can find in the absurd sadness of human lives.
Yet this emotional logic, unfortunately, evapourates in the play’s hasty conclusion. The plot opts for a predictable ending which fulfils one character’s super objective, but thereby flattens the other characters into 2-D types. This eschews the character growth and complexity which the play reveals in its climax. The final moments may hint at plot beyond the action we see, but still, fail to provide sufficient dramatic payoff.
Despite this textual limitation, Pretty Boy Projects’ production of Punch Up will move you to laughter and tears in this touching comedy about comedy itself.