Building up to laughs in 'Assembly Required'
By Stephanie Merry
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Is “Assembly Required: Comedy From A to Y” a seminar spoof, a striptease or a romantic comedy? Amazingly enough, it’s difficult to say. What’s certain is that audience members will leave the theater at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church both scandalized and entertained — I mean, enter-taught.
As theatergoers learned during last year’s Capital Fringe Festival, Rob and Flick (played by No Rules Theatre Company artistic directors Brian Sutow and Joshua Morgan) are a couple of traveling buffoons who put on half-baked lectures, such as “How to Be a Homo-safe-ual” and “Good Grief: How to Productively Lose a Loved One,” for schoolchildren and prison inmates. They’ve returned with a lesson in comedy that features go-to gags — rubber chickens, whoopee cushions, cream pies — and memorable characters, including a robotic baby and Dr. Giggles (Rob in Groucho glasses and a stethoscope, speaking with a lisp).
Watching the pair fail at demonstrating the mechanics of comic timing and technique turns out to be an exercise in hilarity, mostly because the actors are so fully committed to their outlandish characters. Morgan plays the childlike and latently homosexual Flick with just the right amount of wide-eyed earnestness, while Sutow brings his knack for physical comedy and goofy facial expressions to the slightly less idiotic persona of Rob.
All that being said, there’s a fairly large percentage of the population that will find this show downright horrifying. After the jokes about race and homosexuality, not to mention the cracks about cancer and the prop-comedy demonstration featuring a sex toy, the guys begin the nude portion of the performance. Not outrageous enough? That little interlude features a quick jaunt into the audience. While some were breathing a sigh of relief for choosing a seat in the back, most were just trying to breathe between shock-fueled bursts of laughter.