Sophomoric humour gets tiresome in second act

Gordon Jones
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Theatre review 'Apartment 420' can't carry comedy through to conclusion

Snow is a natural hazard of winter theatre. In the snow-clogged streets of downtown St. John's, a new theatre group dodged the bullet on Thursday by the sensible expedient of bumping the first night of their inaugural show to Friday, where it is now up and running at the LSPU Hall. Anti-Entertainment is the provocative name of the brash young company, performing a script written by co-founder Stephen Harris.

Set in a terminally messy lodging, "Apartment 420" brings together a weird assortment of young males in conditions of overcrowded co-habitation. They squabble over cereal boxes, comic books and house rules.

Snow is a natural hazard of winter theatre. In the snow-clogged streets of downtown St. John's, a new theatre group dodged the bullet on Thursday by the sensible expedient of bumping the first night of their inaugural show to Friday, where it is now up and running at the LSPU Hall. Anti-Entertainment is the provocative name of the brash young company, performing a script written by co-founder Stephen Harris.

Set in a terminally messy lodging, "Apartment 420" brings together a weird assortment of young males in conditions of overcrowded co-habitation. They squabble over cereal boxes, comic books and house rules.

Owner Frank is intense and hostile. He shouts a lot. Vince is a fey character in a lab coat, with bright eyes and orange hair, who conducts experiments with marijuana. He cries some and gets hysterical. A big guy with tattoos and shaven head lours and glowers, wordlessly and namelessly. He sleeps a lot. A younger guy in a scout uniform is called Jesus. He has a gun.

Jimmy, who first appears in an Easter Bunny suit, returns dressed as a pizza. He works as a professional mascot. All have tantrums at one time or another - even the delivery guy.

The denizens of this larger-than-life sit-com exchange insults and put-downs reminiscent of school playgrounds.

" You're an idiot."

"I am not an idiot, idiot."

"Shut up."

"No, you shut up."

"Are you bonkers?"

"No, I am not bonkers."

The anal region looms large amongst pejoratives.

Acting is broad and emphatic, while performance is hyperactive, as actors jump and caper, stamp and tiptoe, gesture and grimace.

Even for those who are resistant to frat-house humour and slapstick business, laughs are to be had - and it must be allowed that Vince is kind of cute.

But, by the middle of the second act, sophomoric comedy and caricaturist acting start to wear thin as the shaggy dog story lumbers towards its conclusion but can't seem to find the exit, punctuated as it is by two blackouts and some circular and repetitive narrative as the characters succumb to the stuff they are smoking.

If the show were to find a cult following among younger audiences, it might be worth revising the second act to make it shorter and sharper.

Including one 20-minute intermission, the show is two hours long, which is 10 or 15 minutes too much. Still, at the end, the 40 or 50 members of the opening-night audience, in the main made up of family and friends, stood up to applaud the effort.

And perhaps the audience's familiarity with cast and crew explains why no program was provided to identify who was doing what to whom. So, no individual acting credits are provided in this notice, although promotional material identifies the troupe as Stephen Harris, Matthew Esteves, Adam Roberts, Clifford Hall, Mitchel Bradbury and Samuel Bowen. Did the author, I wonder, claim the choice role of Vince?

Directed by Jonny Lewis, the Anti-Entertainment production of Stephen Harris's "Apartment 420" closes its three-day run at the LSPU Hall today, with show time at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Geographic location: St. John's

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