There was a lot of hilarious stuff this year–mostly intentional–but the following were easily the funniest “straight play” scenes of all.
(5) In the farcical Don’t Dress For Dinner (above), the French cook (Spencer Kayden) had to be turned into a soignee dinner guest, for reasons too silly to mention. So the two scheming males (Ben Daniels, Adam James) managed to rip, fold, and alter her outfit–while she was wearing it–in a matter of seconds, ending up with a gorgeously inspired “half a Chanel.” It was 100% funny.
(4) In the sexy and phantasmagorical comedy/drama Venus in Fur, mystery lady Nina Arianda told blocked writer Hugh Dancy a heart-tugging little story about the days when she was a prostitute. Tony winner Arianda was so brilliantly deadpan about it that when she broke the spell and admitted she was kidding, you literally had to catch your breath!
(3) In End of the Rainbow, Judy Garland (Tracie Bennett) accidentally takes a pill meant for a dog with mange. She winds up on all fours, barking and laughing her ass off. Many have found this bit vulgar and unnecessary, but I thought it was a riot, and with Judy’s self-mocking humor helping her (and us) get through moment, it ends up being endearing, albeit in an extremely poignant kind of way.
(2) In the imaginatively staged backstory comedy Peter and the Starcatcher, Tony winner Christian Borle plays the sniveling creep who becomes Captain Hook with the mere loss of a flapping hand. Borle milks that transition with a million or so variations on “Oh my God!” and some expert physicality to make it an absolute triumph of comic timing and a raucous riff on pain. Ironically, he always gets a hand for doing it.
(1) Another Tony holder, James Corden, is a scream in the farce One Man, Two Guvnors, which reaches an early climax in a late-Act-One dinner scene involving door slamming, crossed agendas, and a decrepit old helper (Tom Edden) who can never quite seem to stay upright. It’s strictly Benny Hill stuff, but it’s pulled off so dexterously it develops into the funniest scene of the whole season. You’ll be hoarse from guffawing.
PS: Almost any of Linda Lavin’s bits in The Lyons could be contenders, and off Broadway, Marilyn Sokol as a horny lamb in Old Jews Telling Jokes is every bit as intoxicating as Judy Garland as a dog. Like I said, lots of laughs this season. And with Harvey, there are even some in the new season already!