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Marcel and The Art of Laughter

Members say: Delightful, Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Masterful
83
Critics
75
13 reviews
Members
84
53 reviews
 

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.

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'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.

 

Cast & Creatives (7)



Reviews (66)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
75
Avg Score

70
The New York Times

"’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

70
Time Out New York

“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

85
Lighting & Sound America

"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

80
Theater Pizzazz

“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

68
TheaterScene.net

"'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

85
Off Off Online

"'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

75
Epoch Times

"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

60
CurtainUp

“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

90
Stage Buddy

"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

80
The Guardian (UK)

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

60
The Stage (UK)

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

80
Plays to See

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

80
A Younger Theatre

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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
84
Avg Score

90
Funny, Delightful, Enchanting, Thought-provoking, Heartwarming

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.

85
Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Refreshing

See it if You enjoy physical comedy by two experts and a second half master class that is great fun.

Don't see it if Physical comedy is a turnoff

Also The two performers channel Chaplin, Keaton, Stooges, and contemporary ... Read more Read less

80
Funny, Intelligent, Refreshing, Charming, Unique

See it if the first act is near perfect

Don't see it if the second act--although enjoyable--felt like a class that i didn't sign up for

80
Funny, Original, Intelligent, Quirky, Entertaining

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.

81
Delightful, Intelligent, Quirky, Hilarious, Entertaining

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

96
Absorbing, Delightful, Masterful, Hilarious, Entertaining

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.

84
Funny, Clever, Intelligent, Profound, Entertaining

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.

79
Funny, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Slow

See it if Love physical comedy and slapstick

Don't see it if Prefer your comedy to be verbal and witty

Also The two actors were very skilled, but each segment could have been cut... Read more Read less

82
Funny, Clever, Edgy, Entertaining, Great staging

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.

Also This is a state of the art theater and very accessible from all parts ... Read more Read less

87
Delightful, Masterful, Classic clowning, Master class in laughter

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

84
Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Masterful, Hilarious

See it if 2 masters at point of perfection in comedy with ingenuity and timing that has the audience roaring with laughter

Don't see it if Slapstick is not your thing

77
Funny, Clever, Delightful, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you like physical comedy, and/or are interested in laughter theory, and/or are an open-minded theatergoer.

Don't see it if you're looking for something traditional with a plot. This is a unique evening in the theatre.

72
Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if you like slapstick comedy.

Don't see it if You prefer comedy with a story line.

80
Masterful, Quirky, Slow, Charming, Entertaining

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.

Also Both actors utterly charming & quietly wow you with talent, individual... Read more Read less

74
Charming, Sweet, Benign

See it if you like agile physical comedy (i.e.Bill Irwin, David Shiner); sweet & poignant performance pieces on the theme of aging

Don't see it if you want an actual play (this is a performance) & have no interest in the 'Ted-talk"-like 2nd act that explains the discipline of this show

Also My first visit to this wonderful, modern theater with great sight line... Read more Read less

78
Delightful, Sweet, An artful laugher, Marcelously agile, Master class

See it if you enjoy warm exhibitions of exquisite clowning skills from a pair of middle-aged male experts, seen mostly in solo turns.

Don't see it if you hate mime, want to be dazzled by production elements, a story, or skills you haven’t seen before.

99
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting

See it if You are a fan of Clowning. You want to Laugh like crazy while also getting a little existential.

Don't see it if You do not like comedies. You need strong plots to interest you.

85
Clever, Delightful, Quirky, Fun

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.

92
Clever, Enchanting, Intelligent, Masterful, Hilarious

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

92
Original, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Hilarious

See it if You love physical comedy elevated above slapstick and done with intelligence

Don't see it if You only like theater with a linear plot line or really dislike physical comedy

75
Funny, Delightful

See it if You like physical comedy and clowning. Also if you like metacognition.

Don't see it if You want a plot or need a big spectacle to be entertained.

72
Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Banal, Entertaining

See it if You like mime and slapstick comedy it is literally a masterclass

Don't see it if You crave intellectual depth and thought provoking drama. This is a “how to“performance on stagecraft

80
Delightful, Intelligent, Funny (not hilarious)

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.

84
Funny, Delightful, Masterful, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you like clown work

Don't see it if you don't think clowns are funny

87
Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Masterful

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.