Romantic Fools*** (Canal Cafe Theatre, 15 November 2013)

Posted: November 16, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Building on the premise that men and women are irresistibly drawn together yet eternally incompatible, this hour-long compilation of nine comedy sketches looks at the battle of the sexes with a charmingly cynical eye. It has already been performed in 13 countries and is making its UK debut with this short tour of London fringe venues. Writer Rich Orloff is a New Yorker and his writing is full of the angst-ridden humour associated mainly with that city. When the girl in this show puts down her partner with “I’m my own best friend and my own best lover too”, the influence of Woody Allen leaps out. In fact, Orloff’s dialogue is so distinctively New York that it often seems incongruous to hear it spoken by a New Zealand woman and a Welshman, as it is here. It takes a while to get used to this and, at the beginning, the humour feels too forced, but it comes to matter less once the show gets into full swing. The two performers, Nadya Shaw Bennett and James John Bryant, are instantly likeable and their youthful enthusiasm is infectious. In the links between the sketches, they interact with the audience and ad lib with confidence. A bizarre opening sketch sees Nadya (they use their own first names throughout) dating a neanderthal (literally), but, thereafter, the situations are more conventional. She views men as wanting one thing, believing that “they wear condoms over their hearts”. He views women as controlling and always giving mixed messages – “ three positive adjectives from a woman means it’s over”. Much of the humour draws from these stereotypical depictions of the sexes, but, occasionally, the stereotypes are turned neatly on their heads, as in an encounter between James and a hooker. In one sketch, we hear moans of ecstasy from the couple only for the lights to go up and reveal them arm-wrestling, demonstrating the proximity of love to war which is the core theme of the show. Taking us on a winding route from blind date to marriage proposal and culminating in a wedding that incorporates a divorce, this show is lightweight fun that should resonate with anyone who has ever tried to navigate the choppy waters of a relationship.

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