Alive TV” kicks off its 1992 season with a collage of live performance art, vaudeville and slapstick. Conceived, written and directed by David Gordon (Mark Pellington also directed), the half-hour is both clever social commentary and visual jumble –so jumbled, in fact, that it’s difficult to watch all the way through.
The 17th-century Italian puppet figures “Punch” and “Judy” arrive in 20 th-century televisionland, beset by woes of infidelity and divorce in this offbeat live TV performance piece.
Gordon shows an uncompromising wit when he sets about skewering the American dream, in this instance the institution of marriage.
Using commedia dell’arte, Gordon relentlessly cuts to the quick of each dilemma–going from the lack of communication between the sexes, passed from one generation to the next, to the eventual alienation of family.
The result often is a sense of isolation and disenfranchisement for everyone involved–even Toby, the dog (played by Scott Cunningham and Ain Gordon).
Stereotypes and cliches abound and are echoed as each character and his or her twin lives up to type, from Judy’s (Alice Playten, Mary Louise Wilson) sniping that “a woman’s work is never done” to Punch’s drole commentary that it’s a “dog eat dog” world.
Punch (Michael Butler, Stephen Hanan) eyes voluptuous Polly (Karen Evans-Kandel, Tisha Roth), the babies (Michael Cobb, Bobo Lewis) dream of having big cars and big breasts, and Judy is left asking, “Why does my husband of 200 some years want a young girlfriend?”
Unfortunately, the sometimes acrid social commentary loses its punch under Gordon and Pellington’s oftentimes erratic and cluttered staging.
The large cast prove themselves to be adept mimes/new vaudevillians, using plenty of facial and body expression in these larger-than-life characters.
Yet “Punch and Judy Get Divorced” is the kind of piece that probably looked better onstage but is too disarrayed and in-your-face for the small screen.