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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

LAUGHING WILD (article first published : 2004-02-11)

Making for hilarious, whacky fun but with penetrating undertones, Laughing Wild is a brilliant and biting script written by Christopher Durang and first presented by Playwrights Horizions in New York in 1987 with the author in the male role. Well-directed by Steven Stead and presented by KickstArt, it opened tonight at Kwasuka Theatre and features excellent performances from Lisa Bobbert and Darren King.

The show opens with two monologues. The characters are fairly dysfunctional with their own psychological hang-ups - one driven by rage and the other by insecurity. Through their rambling and hilarious presentations, we discover that they met in a supermarket. Well, not exactly met … he was hovering around the tuna display and she was impatiently trying to get a tin of her favourite food. When he doesn’t respond to her bristling presence, she bops him on the head!

What ensues is a cleverly crafted dramatic piece. Their solo revelations contain memories that the audience needs to attend to carefully, because Christopher Durang skilfully weaves these into the proceedings of the second half where the two interact more closely.

With pony-tail flying and dressed in a wild array of clothing, the woman is a virtual time bomb. She has problems with inter-personal relationships and the occasional one-night stand generates a desire to jump off a building. With a history of psychiatric care, she has a strong desire to send all the abandoned and unwanted children in the world to the Pope in revenge for the Catholic Church’s stand on abortion and condom use. She finds fault with taxi drivers and teenagers from New Jersey and has a problem with TV personalities Sally Jessy Raphael and Dr Ruth Westheimer.

More conservatively dressed – although the geometric tie is a bit hectic - the man is more contained but just as confused with life. Bespectacled and rather prissy, he relies on cue cards for his presentation which reveals that he has great difficulty in being positive and is nervous about leaving his apartment. He’s not sure whether he’s homosexual, heterosexual or plain muddled. He just knows he’s tired of being an existentialist and desperately wants to be happy. In an incisive part of his monologue, he questions a god who could allow the existence of HIV/AIDS.

I am delighted to see that both characters solve their problem by reverting to the only true answer to most of life’s problems – proper breathing control!

With an accurate accent and delicious loose-knee movement, Lisa Bobbert is a tough act to follow but Darren King holds his own. While she is all energy and impotent aggression, his role is quieter and more introspective. It’s an incredibly physical play but the two performers are well disciplined and utterly focused. They’re a delight to watch. We know what Lisa is capable of – particularly after her performance in Brutal Tunes, but it’s refreshing to see the straight actor side of Darren who we’ve only seen in song and dance roles before in Durban.

Greg King’s set is clean and crisp – a basic brick wall making way for a large eye image, opening up to represent a supermarket aisle and expanding further to portray a city skyline. The Infant of Prague costume created b Peter Court is a masterpiece!

Sensitive viewers should note that this play contains strong language and adult themes.

Laughing Wild runs at the Kwasuka Theatre from February 10 to March 6 with shows from Tuesday to Saturday at 20h00. Tickets R60 (R50 students/pensioners) available at Computicket outlets or on 011 340 8000/083 915 8000. Block bookings for charities, fundraisers or corporate events and social gathering can be arranged at discounted prices. – Caroline Smart




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