PUZZLE ME RED written and performed by Michael Kennard (Mump & Smoot/MK Productions). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To June 28. 416-368-3110. See Continuing. Rating: NN
True to its name, puzzle me red is a puzzling piece of theatre, full of promise and good intentions but oddly lacking in originality and execution.
Michael Kennard, better known as Mump, the bossier one in clown duo Mump & Smoot, plays Biv Rogy, a sad-?faced red-?noser whose highly organized life falls apart during one hectic and energy-?guzzling day.
Biv lives alone, but he has surrounded himself with lots of material possessions that he crams into a briefcase before heading off to the yoga studio and then the office in his bright yellow Hummer (represented by a battery-?operated toy replica).
There are some fine set pieces, such as one involving Biv’s absurd job, which requires him to snare cash being blown through a pipe and insert it into an envelope. It’s a variation on that old I Love Lucy episode about the inhuman pace of technology.
Another sequence, in which he brings his road rage up close by confronting an audience member, hits home, and Kennard gets to flex his impressive improv muscles.
But the show’s larger issue, the effects of materialism and wasteful living on global warming, feels obvious and preachy. And a flashback motif suggesting that Biv may be recovering from some war isn’t developed or explained sufficiently. Many scenes feature masks designed by Kennard, and they seem part of a different show entirely.
Kennard is a fine performer in his own right – witty, nuanced and clear – but if you’re an M&S fan, this is like watching yin without yang. Even though John Turner (aka Smoot) gets a director credit, the show’s missing that mysterious alchemy you get when two great performers spark off each other onstage.