Toronto Fringe Festival: "2-Man No-Show 2"
Isaac Kessler and Ken Hall return with a sequel to last year’s Fringe hit.
You have to give Isaac Kessler credit for the last few minutes of 2-Man No-Show 2, his and Ken Hall’s follow-up to their 2009 Fringe hit 2-Man No-Show. Sporting a big, shiny Star of David necklace (as he does throughout the show), the red-haired Kessler bounds around stage as Tarzan in a leopard-print loincloth-style thong that just barely covers what needs to be covered, prompting one girl behind me to giggle, “That was way more of Isaac than I needed to see.”
Kessler and Hall are game for pretty much anything in 2-Man No-Show 2, a series of amusing if sprawling sketches that last just under an hour. You’ll miss a few jokes if this is your first introduction to the pair – especially in a “chair birthing” scene that has to be seen to be believed – but their flair for physical comedy and obvious stage chemistry go a long way towards making up for uneven material and lapses in clarity.
Judging from the audience’s reactions, the appeal of each sketch is largely a matter of taste. I liked the Jewish twist to their Pinocchio skit (and its unexpectedly gruesome ending), and the “Kissing Bandit” scene contained a hilarious tango number (made funnier by the height difference between the two). The Street Hunter sketch, where the two alternate between playing the cops and crooks, was a clever idea but hampered by a lack of polish, and I just didn’t get the sequence where Hall played a drunken homeless man begging for Kessler’s store clerk’s attention on Christmas Eve.
The sketches could have benefitted from a little tightening and several dialogues went by too fast to be intelligible. Moreover, the production feels a bit scattershot – there’s no discernible connection between these scenes. But Kessler and Hall are such great ad-libbers that I started to wish there was more improvisation and audience interaction in the show, and they’re so clearly enjoying themselves that the energy is infectious. The execution may have been rough, but their charm and total shamelessness in going for the laughs made me wish I’d caught their act the first time around, and left me intrigued as to what the pair would do next.
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs until July 11. For more information, visit www.fringetoronto.com. For more information about 2-Man No-Show 2, visit www.2mannoshow.com.