There are also slide shows illustrating what is, and what isn’t funny. For the most part, these work too, though some seem a bit forced. The best of what follows is a true homage to the history of comedy: the introduction (to many) of the characters in commedia del arte, including use of an actual slapstick, definitions of various “takes,” burlesque silliness, visual comedy of various kinds, and the recurring gag of potential attack with cream pies. There are sendups of medieval Catholicism, modern politics, and even an homage to Chekhov, whose wry comic takes on the self-absorption of the Russian aristocracy were produced as if they were tragedies.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays.Where: The Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank.Tickets: $30-$45.Running time: 2 hours with intermission.Suitability: Includes sexual and scatological references.Information: 818-955-8101, falcontheatre.com. ★★When: Through April 23, 8 p.m.
The best-known is the wildly funny “Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged),” which even had them falling out of their chairs in London. The comic playwriting team of Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor has created several funny sendups of classics, known as the “Complete (abridged)” plays. Thus, a chance to see their more recent concoction, “The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)” here in the Los Angeles area seemed a no-brainer.Now at the Falcon Theatre, it has another hallmark, being the last show of the last season orchestrated by Falcon founder, the late Garry Marshall, himself no slouch in the comedy department.
‘THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (ABRIDGED)’
But there is a lot of dated material. There are other references to personalities only the older members of the audience will remember with that detail, particularly Joseph McCarthy (or Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, for that matter) and Richard Nixon.Indeed, between this and the need to resolve the “who is the man in the bowler hat” scenario, the second act begins to drag and a lot of it simply becomes unfunny. For example, a big musical number about the Supreme Court makes fun of a very alive Antonin Scalia, though he has been dead for over a year.
Sadly, though there are a number of funny moments, this “Complete History …” does not quite hold up. Well-performed by a trio of very talented, high-energy and versatile actors, it still suffers from two essential flaws: a convoluted and unfunny construct, which becomes the show’s driving force and supposed aim, and too little material that is funny enough (or not too dated) to power a full two acts of performance.First, the construct: Supposedly a famous Chinese manuscript written by the brother of “The Art of War” writer Sun Tsu, called “The Art of Comedy” (by Ah Tsu … get it?) has been uncovered in a trunk, though it is missing its final chapter. Presenting this fictitious book, and trying to figure out its final chapter, becomes the focus of the show, leading to the uncovering of the identity of the bowler-hatted mystery force that brought the book to light. The discovery was made thanks to guidance from a mysterious man in a bowler hat and clown nose.