Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction ups clowns game and pays off

MORRO & JASP IN STUPEFACTION by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (Kabin and U.N.I.T. Productions). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345.

MORRO & JASP IN STUPEFACTION by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee (Kabin and U.N.I.T. Productions). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs to June 29. $20-$40. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Clown-sister favourites Morro (Heather Marie Annis) and Jasp (Amy Lee) traditionally share their stage with lots of props but no other humans aside from brief interactions with audience members. But adding characters to Stupefaction, which has a cast of five, feels like a natural progression that yields deeper interactions and comedic rewards.

Arriving late to watch a play that hasnt yet begun, the pair make a disruptive entrance that attracts everyones attention, including an usher (Elliott Loran) who comically struggles to get them settled. When lighting issues further prolong curtain time, a technician (Sefton Jackson) shows up, soon followed by a FedEx deliveryman (Anand Rajaram) bearing a mysterious box. Sorting out all this confusion creates angst for the clowns, who unwittingly become the leads of their own play while trying to find meaning in these strange encounters.

Annis and Lee continue to invest their clown counterparts with curiosity and humanity. Their comic timing is impeccable just watch how Annis makes her way across the room to a cart brimming with Cheezies or the clowns prolonged tangled encounter with Rajaram. Yet amidst the chaos and banter theyre acutely aware of the audiences reactions and poised to respond at every moment.

Adding supporting players provides new opportunities for playful interaction. Loran serves double-duty as a pre-show warm-up man, chatting with people as they enter. Later, he delivers strong singing and dancing with exuberant energy. At the other end of the vitality spectrum is Rajarams FedEx guy, his low-key, earnest persona in hilarious contrast to the others.

Although the storyline doesnt feel as finely tuned as in past shows, the script still delights in playing with language. The audience even gets to contribute to a made-up word that the clowns adopt as a guiding mantra.

Byron Laviolettes marvellous direction incorporates projections, smoke and frequent entrances and exits, while always feeling organic in the space. Props remain essential: Morros Cheezie chase moves the action from the floor onto the stage itself, and audience cellphones contribute a beautiful visual effect near the end of the play.

Stupefaction is a little darker (visually and philosophically) than fans may be used to, but Morro and Jasp remain a shining light.

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