If you enjoy spectacle dressed up by acrobats as hammy slapstick, you’ll probably have fun at “Jump.” The Korean performers of Yegam do everything but fly in this 90-minute martial-arts demonstration, leaping off the walls and swinging swords and staves at one another with impressive stamina and speed. Despite stray trappings of farce and commedia, it’s more a stage version of “Kung Fu Hustle” than actual theater, but it’s certainly something to see.
Looking out at Tae-Young Kim’s set (a high-ceilinged dojo with gently curved walls), it’s easy to imagine possibilities for “Jump” and entertain high hopes for the various weaponry mounted on the walls. The Old Man (Woon-Yong Lee) begins the proceedings during the pre-show, hobbling through the aisles and asking innocent audience members to carry him across the theater (he’s heavier than he looks, folks). It’s a gag, of course. Before long, this guy will be hurling himself through the air like an Olympic diver without the aid of a pool.
As the show opens, the cartoony family enters and performs what passes for the show’s narrative. The thrust of the story is that the Son-in-Law (Byung-Eun Yoo) is a polite young man until he takes off his glasses, at which point he becomes a nutty-professorial love machine and fighting master. The rest of the time, he’s as meek as a kitten, leading to difficulty in both love and combat.
It’s not terribly complex, admittedly, and much of the humor is decidedly unreconstructed: The cast pulls pranks on good sports of both sexes, and the joke on the female audience member is a bit insulting.
But for all but the most uptight audiences, PC concerns will vanish once the house is inexpertly burgled by Yun-Gab Hong and Seung-Youl Lee and the spectators are left out of the proceedings. The setup delivers plenty of lights down/lights up gags ala a lesser English sex farce, but the actors’ mastery of martial arts becomes a startlingly appropriate aid to broad physical comedy. Rare is the actor who can turn a double backflip during a pratfall.
The end of the show sends up action movies and videogames in a way that only the stage can — witness the slo-mo instant replays and verbal sound effects as Grandfather (Sang-Cheul Lee) puts an end to the burglars’ chaotic invasion. The other actors lift him off the ground and carry him slowly over the stage as he “re-enacts” an impossible multiple-kick move, making plosive impact noises with his tongue. You can almost hear the “Mortal Kombat” announcer mutter, “Finish him!”And that’s the show, with a final curtain call of progressively greater leaps until the end, when the most talented performers run straight up the side wall and flip backwards onto the stage, landing with a flex and a bow. Eugene O’Neill it ain’t, but who’s to say it’s not fun?