LEGOLAND by Jacob Richmond (Atomic Vaudeville). At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). To April 13. $15-$35. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNNN
This welcome remount of BC playwright Jacob Richmond's hilariously quirky comedic tour-de-force brings back the original cast from the West Coast, and once again shows at Theatre Passe Muraille, where Toronto fans first fell in love with this giddy romp about weirdo teenaged siblings - with exceedingly dark senses of humour - who bus across America to meet a thugged-out pop star.
The story is mainly told by awkward elder sister Penny (Celine Stubel), who frames the show as a presentation resulting from a community service sentence, while her dour younger brother Ezra (Amitai Marmorstein) punctuates her tale with bleak, nihilistic one-liners and morbidly funny puppet shows.
While Penny anchors the story and scores lots of laughs in the process, Ezra is clearly the show's breakout character. Styled after an old-time British villain (think a teenage Stewie from Family Guy), Ezra and his encyclopedic knowledge of the darker notes of history, science and philosophy - delivered in perfect deadpan by Marmorstein - prove endlessly funny, and provide the perfect maniacal counterpoint to Penny's more familiar teen angst.
After multiple productions together, the dynamic between Stubel and Marmorstein feels genuinely familial - they both know the show inside and out and play every joke to maximum effect. Directors Richmond and Britt Small have wisely avoided expanding or padding the story with extra content following the play's initial success, allowing the already full and thematically rich story to unfold inside an action-packed hour.
The company's eclectic combination of cute choreography, prop comedy and puppets - both tiny and life-sized - adds extra dimensions of funny to Richmond's already entertaining script.
Even though the story reveals that Penny and Ezra grew up on an erudite New Age pot farm commune in Saskatchewan, and revels in their sheer oddity, Richmond's skill as a writer also makes the siblings instantly relatable. They've struggled to fit in at high school, felt anxious as perpetual outsiders and frustrated with their broken sense of idealism about the world.
These are common problems rendered gloriously strange.