Theatre for a New Audience presents this double bill of comic one acts. 'Marcel': a poignant two-hander about the collision of clowning and mortality, and 'The Art of Laughter': a comedy about comedy. More…
'Marcel': From Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, the Parisian home of Peter Brook, comes this story of an aging physical comedian and an inscrutable, clipboard-wielding nemesis mysteriously enjoined to test him with a battery of absurd tasks. In 'Marcel' slapstick meets the limits of age.
'The Art of Laughter': Jos Houben dissects everyday life – a baby’s first steps, a man falling in a restaurant, the essence of various cheeses – revealing why laughter is at the core of our humanity. Part performance and part masterclass, 'The Art of Laughter' is about comedy at its most fundamental--what makes audiences laugh.
"The two are quite charming and playful...'Marcel' is pretty silly and slapstick, particularly with a joke involving a bottle of water, but becomes rather poignant...If 'Marcel' demonstrates the pair’s predilection for pratfalls, 'Laughter' deconstructs them. A 'master class' in how to elicit laughter...The sequence of the two plays is brilliant...Masterful creations of physical performance from two seasoned artists. The hilarious antics of Houben and Magni are a joy to watch." Full Review
"The performances are elegantly minimal; there isn't a single excess gesture. Even when the action turns relatively frantic, you feel that both are totally in control -- almost relaxed -- as they practice their own personal brand of mayhem. 'Marcel' and 'The Art of Laughter' offer something very rare -- humor in its purest form, presented with no small intelligence and cockeyed goodwill. It is all but guaranteed to give you a lift." Full Review
"'Marcel' has a particular European sensibility that’s engaging, offbeat and sometimes strangely familiar...Although there is speaking in the piece, the primary thrust is physical business rendered with precise comic timing...More often the comic business just arises spontaneously...The end has some unexpected poignancy...Both men are connoisseurs at what makes an audience laugh, and the whole production is both informative and full of delights." Full Review
“In 'Marcel,' an extended…vaudeville sketch, the audience is treated as both Magni's friend and…his enemy…His character…is a deceptively hapless everyman bumbling with masterful aplomb to hide the infirmities of age…Poignant and well done as it is, it's not quite up to the imaginative level of 'Old Hats'…'The Art of Laughter'…is a fascinating, hour-long monologue by Houben, which begins slowly and soon enough ensnares you in what is closer to a lecture-demonstration than a 'play.'” Full Review
"The second act functions as a coda, though each works perfectly as a stand-alone offering. Not hysterically funny by any means, but definitely enjoyable, insightful, and presented by two first-rate performers, 'Marcel + The Art of Laughter' provides an excellent example of what comedy can be and how, while we may all find different things funny, we all enjoy having a good laugh." Full Review
"’Marcel’ and ‘The Art of Laughter’ are more amusing and instructive than hilarious. Your gut will remain unbusted...'Marcel': Though many bits are delightfully imaginative, others cross the whimsy line and become cloying...'Art': In the manner of a professor studding a seminar with demonstrations, Houben shows that he can manipulate our laughter as easily as Marcel manipulated the bowler hat earlier...Houben’s astounding mimetic skill is not just math, it’s showmanship." Full Review
“In ‘Marcel’, Magni strives to surmount inane barriers to success, his taskmaster seems determined to keep raising the bar. While this business is not always funny, Magni’s charm keeps it from being tiresome...The show perks up when Houben takes the stage in his ‘The Art of Laughter’...He embarks on a practicum of fumbles and pratfalls; his minutely calibrated body language is brilliant.” Full Review
"'Marcel' is an hour-long mediation on time and aging...Whether it’s all actually funny and profound is dependent on one’s taste. It’s possible to be in hysterics or bored due to the length...'The Art of Laughter' is a droll lecture superbly delivered by Houben...For an hour, he commandingly exhibits his sensational movement skills and his effortless and highly effective comic timing...This second portion of the show is supreme entertainment." Full Review
“A study in contrasts...Many in the audience found 'Marcel' breathtakingly funny. For those of us who couldn't figure out what was so funny about 'Marcel,' Houben attempted to provide the answer in 'The Art of Laughter'...There is something quite American about their humor. This is probably because slapstick has a unique language that does not entail words...Some people find this language very funny. Some don't.” Full Review
for a previous production "A funny, heart-breaking show...Right from the start the fourth wall is breached and the show continually reaches out to the audience, playing us with a knowing sweetness...It’s a brief hour that gives the kiss of life to the ancient art of the gag, and it echoes not just to the laughter of this particular audience but of all audiences who, down through the ages, have laughed and recognized their own absurdity in the comic antics of the clown." Full Review
for a previous production "Houben has honed his technique to perfection and so his soliloquy on laughter is a detailed analysis of the human body and psyche...Every aspect of our movement, reactions, emotional state and surrounding environment has comedic potential. Throw in the mix a talented, eloquent, and witty performer delivering a flowing and example-rich lecture...and you get an hour-long hilarious delight with sprinklings of anthropology and psychology." Full Review
for a previous production "A masterclass in physical acting that explores the cause and effect of laughter...Houben picks out the details we subconsciously notice and consciously shows us their comic potential...Houben’s confident manner demands the attention of the audience...Houben’s demonstration of different ways of walking, moving our head, or gesturing causes great hilarity amongst audience members...His dissection of physicality is fascinating and very informative not only for actors, but for everyone." Full Review
for a previous production "The overall impression is of childlike clowning combined with ageing innocence, and light-fingered slapstick which is mildly entertaining...While there is some discernible progression, the production suffers from a lack of structure, though the evident chemistry between the two performers prevents it from slipping into random banality...Occasionally poignant but not very penetrating...The kind of piece which ends up penciled rather than inked on the memory." Full Review
See it if You like physical comedy and clowning as a theatrical art by Two wonderful performers.
Don't see it if You want a regular stage play. This is totally different. But if you wanna laugh hard and loud give it a chance.
See it if you appreciate effortless physical acting and flawless professionalism. Houben and Magni are magnificent.
Don't see it if you have no interest in acting techniques, movement, commedia dell'arte, the relationship of bodies in space.
See it if You like to laugh and want to see two Master craftsmen show you how it is done. One is an amazing clown act, the other is a master class.
Don't see it if You don't like to laugh, don't like shows that don't necessarily have an understandable ending, or don't enjoy the breaking of the 4th wall
See it if Marcel: aging performer tries to pass an existential test about nothing. Art of L: how loss of dignity underlies humor. Wonderful stuff.
Don't see it if You are not interested in physical humor plus some underlying pathos and meaning.
See it if mastery of the audience laugh mechanism, gentle human comedy, classic mime & clowning can hold your interest for 2 hours
Don't see it if physical comedy. non-verbal storytelling, European clowns, class on why we laugh, are not appealing to you
See it if you enjoy pantomime, European clown or silent films and a story that requires you to use your own imagination.
Don't see it if you want a straightforward storyline or a lot of dialogue. Don't stay for the second half if you hate learning how to be comedic.
See it if you enjoy really well-done pantomime. Marcel, the first one-act is clever and delightful.
Don't see it if Second one-act, The Art of Laughter, is a primer on how to laugh and how to get audiences to laugh. It's engaging and enjoyable.
See it if You want to see a masterclass in physical comedy then get a very funny lesson about how it’s done. Delightful and clever. Talented players.
Don't see it if You don’t like slapstick or physical comedy or would prefer to see a play or musical. This is neither.
See it if you enjoy a show of comedy that is intelligent as well. The second act very different from first, a master class about the art of comedy
Don't see it if you don't enjoy comedy of any kind.
See it if you delight in truly splendid physical comedy and want to experience a true masterclass in the art of humor
Don't see it if you're already tired of the usual gags & don't want to watch a man impersonate cheese for the purpose of expounding on an intellectual point
See it if you would like to stretch your appreciation for physical comedy, learn a little about how it works technically, and laugh a lot as well!
Don't see it if you dislike physical comedy and have no desire to change.
See it if Enjoy seeing (Act 1) and learning about (Act 2) clowning/physical humor.
Don't see it if You're expecting hilarity -- it's funny but not more. Both acts, esp 2nd, could use some editing.
See it if masterly comedic performances of mime, sight gags and the like appeal. Tip: come in a good, generous mood! 2d act best at drawing you in.
Don't see it if you're expecting plot or dialogue of any kind; need trappings of set design & costumes to gaze at; physical comedy & ensuing laughs vex you.
See it if You enjoy clowning or want to witness master clowns. You're looking for something to make you smile for a while.
Don't see it if You are looking for something serious. It is very thoughtful, though... just not serious.
See it if You're up for two short comic pieces:a short silent physical comedy, and a lecture/demo of how & why human beings are hard-wired to laugh.
Don't see it if You're expecting plot or dialogue; both are minimal.
See it if you'd like an imaginative twist on classic European clowning, in a duet and a somewhat related lecture-demo style solo
Don't see it if physical comedy or silent clowning is not your thing; the masterful technique is the attraction here, not novel humor
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