• Theater Review: Broadway slapstick rides the bus
    By Jim Lowe
     | May 04,2013
    Andrew Gryn Photo

    Six actors play the more than 60 bizarre characters who ride the bus in Centaur Theatre’s “The Number 14.”

    MONTREAL — Physical comedy on stage defies description. In comparison, television and film versions are tepid. And when the performers and writers are experts, it wins over even the biggest skeptics of slapstick.

    The Centaur Theatre is presenting the last run of Axis Theatre’s “The Number 14” — a ridiculously funny, ribald and entertaining show that proves the point — through May 26. There isn’t much better physical comedy to be had anywhere.

    “The Number 14,” a unique slapstick comedy set on a Vancouver bus, was the brainchild of Wayne Specht, Axis’ founding artistic director, and Roy Surette, then artistic director of Touchstone Theatre and now Centaur’s artistic director. Since its premiere in 1992, it has toured Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States, including two runs at the Victory Theatre on Broadway. And this is the last run.

    Six actors play the more than 60 characters of all ages who enter and leave the urban bus in this rapid-fire comedy.

    A nasty chain-smoking schoolteacher takes her children on a field trip to the science museum — and what a bizarre lot they are.

    A group of elderly folk makes its way onto the bus on the way to bingo — with all the old-folk jokes you can imagine, plus the odd fart here and there. Two teen schoolgirls gush and guffaw over crushes and other very important subjects. A real estate agent, late for an appointment, dresses on the bus — while her assistant seduces the buyer to make the sale.

    Describing the plot does little to reveal the sidesplitting humor in this show, because the acrobatic and miming skills of these performers are what made Thursday’s opening night such a success. In particular, an elderly lady being thrown around an out-of-control bus was not only expert, but most entertaining.

    With all this physical comedy, there was also a fair share of wit. Two aging thespians attempting to upstage each other resulted in a unique and hilarious look at Shakespeare. An aging ’60s hippie, likely tripping on LSD, offers a brilliantly comic look on life in today’s world.

    Not only is the production fast-paced in its storyline, it changes performance styles just as quickly, and sometimes mixes and matches. At times, expressive masks add a cartoonlike quality. Not every skit is a big success, but it’s only seconds until we’re on to another.

    Directed by Specht, all six performers proved more than able: Chris Adams, Morgan Brayton, Stefano Giulianetti, Neil Minor, Tracey Power and Scott Walters.

    Even the most reluctant was likely laughing uncontrollably at opening night of Centaur Theatre’s “The Number 14.”


    The Centaur Theatre presents the Axis Theatre production of “The Number 14” through May 26 at its playhouse, 453 St-François-Xavier in Old Montreal. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (except May 12 at 7 p.m.), plus a 1 p.m. matinee Wednesday, May 8. For tickets or information, call 514-288-3161 or go online to www.centaurtheatre.com.

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