Review: Gentlemen

Posted on Sep 6th, 2010 by Anshu Bora in Reviews, Comedy, Goblin Productions

Goblin Production's Gentlemen I’ve always believed that stand up comedians need to be performers and actors themselves. They need to know their way around the stage. But there is also a reason why stand up comedy is stand up comedy and theater is theater. A reason why they are separate and are performed separately. And I would imagine that it is because stand up comedy doesn’t require all the assets of an actor, or of the stage for that matter, and so it is performed at a separate space where one just needs to see the performer.

So when Goblin production’s "Gentlemen" played out as a stand up comedy routine, one was left crying for the criminal waste of stage and good actors. I may as well have been at a restaurant watching the show, with a chicken wing in my right hand and a beer in the left.

Gentlemen is essentially and wholly about the phallus; an attempt to explore male sexuality just like the famous "Vagina Monologues". but it’s an attempt made at a very surface level and one that is clearly meant to play to the galleries.

The script deals with four male characters with their individual stories about their adventures with their members. So there’s the man who suffers from erectile dysfunction, another who refuses to use a condom and can not see the sense in it. A boy who has just discovered masturbation and an old aging man who speaks of his troubles taking a leak in the tube and how he misses the simple act of just walking to the bathroom instead. A female character is introduced as the last act who administers quite a dressing down in a typical female rant against men and their ways.

The writing is mostly funny, albeit, nothing startlingly new or fresh – we’ve all heard these jokes before. It seemed to have been written, as I said earlier, as a stand up comedy act and not a theatrical piece.

There is hardly any movement for the actors and there is practically no use of lights. The sound, supervised by Amjad, left much to be desired.

What saves the production from complete disaster is decent performances. All actors had great comic timing and made the most of the evidently poor directions they were given. But even that could not save the evening from getting mundane and predictable. The humor in the sex jokes dries up faster than an open bottle of spirit and the surface level treatment of the subject at hand, aimed clearly as being a slapstick comedy, begins to gnaw at you brain.

And when the woman enters, all set to run riot in man world, one knows all too well where it is going. But what surprises you, in an absurd turn of events, is the sudden profundity introduced by the female narrator, recounting the eve-teasing and other common incidents that every woman has gone through in her life. Suddenly, it is not funny. While the intention of the writing is good, the sudden change in pace does it in. One is left feeling awkward about the situation rather than empathize and introspect.  Perhaps a bit of a lead in would have helped.

All in all, "Gentlemen" is the kind of production which can be watched if you’d like to, as they say, leave your brain behind and go have some fun. And I say this because many in the audience had come with that intention and got what they wanted. It’s the sort of David Dhawan version of theater if you will. If you’re looking for an interesting exploration of male sexuality with enough theatrical magic packed in, then you better sit this one out.

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Article by Anshu Bora

Anshu Bora is a theatre junkie from Bangalore.

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3 Comments to “Review: Gentlemen”

  1. Good review Anshu. Saw the play on Sunday and found it quite funny but ya it was more a stand-up, no-brainer comic act. Infact we did end up discussing that the play suits more as a stand-up performed in restaurants than a platform like Rangashankara.

    Overall, after guffaws, laughs – forget it sorts.

    September 6th, 2010 4:35 pm

  2. Till the second act got over my liking graph for Gentlemen had been going steadily downhill. The jokes so far were the sort that has been done to death in films, standup comedies and email forwards. I wasn’t terribly amused. Things looked up a bit when the talkative barber came on. At least there was freshness in the staging, though the laughs were few.

    The old man, I liked. He had a nice manner of pausing before some sad statement and immediately turning it into something clever. If you ask me, the lady with her “typical female rant” stole the show. All right, that was not original either but (with apologies to Orwell) some clichés are more equal than others. 😛

    The lack of freshness extended to the music as well. Old Man’s Song = Ae Meri Zohara Jabeen: that’s the most obvious association ever since DDLJ, why not find something more inspired? Why not a Meri Mohabbat Jawan Rahegi or a Dil Jawan Hai Arzoo Jawan?

    I so agree about bringing in street harassment into the act. Some of the laughter of the audience continued into that two-minute interlude. Before we understood that we had to silence ourselves, back we were in slapstick territory. That part seemed abrupt and needless. I have not watched The Vagina Monologues but have heard that they deal with serious subjects too. I’d love to see how they tie it together with the comic bits.

    September 6th, 2010 8:38 pm

  3. And I say this because many in the audience had come with that intention and got what they wanted.

    Absolutely. A couple of my friends loved it.

    September 6th, 2010 8:41 pm

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