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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

A Knockout Punch

Theater Review

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There are three different kinds of successful comedy shows: those that are funny, those that are funny in ways the author and actors hadn't intended and those that aren't really all that funny but still manage to be wildly entertaining. That last category is the most difficult to describe in a review, and it is that category into which Off The Wall's Holiday Punch 2008 fits.

For a number of years now, Off The Wall Artistic Director Dale Gutzman and a cast of regulars have opened their stage in December to deliver Holiday Punch-an entirely original holiday show featuring song, dance and comedy sketches. This year's Punch mixes songs from a variety of different moods with comedy culled from contemporary pop culture, the recent presidential election, Ikea, the Milwaukee County bus system, the "Ped Egg" commercial foot zester and more. Punch lines don't always work, but many of the jokes will get a healthy amount of laughter providing the audience is generally in a good mood. The fortunate thing about this is the fact that the cast seems to have no difficulty bringing the audience into an appropriately good mood. It accomplishes this through sheer volume: a dozen or so actors play emotionally mutated and amplified versions of themselves with enough variety to keep at least three or four different visual elements in play throughout the production.

Performances include Dale Gutzman as the affable emcee, Jeremy Welter as the young talent looking to bring a progressive feeling into the theater and David Roper as the nice guy British import. Natasha Mortazavi is the sweet, preternaturally innocent dynamic while Liz Mistele's dichotomous energy lends a respectably captivating unevenness to the cast. These actors join several others in a production that turns out to be surprisingly fun.

Dale Gutzman's Holiday Punch runs through Dec. 31 at the Off The Wall Theatre.