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Morro and Jasp: 9 - 5 delivers laughs courtesy of two hardworking clowns

by Drew Rowsome -

Morro and Jasp, Factory Theatre's "Clowns-in-Residence," are fed up with being fired from jobs, so they create their own startup business: JMI Industries. Or, more accurately, Jasp creates the business and Morro helps out or, more accurately, hinders. Their dreams and ambitions are big and if only the investors who are on their way will sign on...

Of course it all goes horribly, hilariously wrong. Partly because Morro is an anarchic childlike clown who can't resist her impulses or a musical interlude. Partly because Jasp is every controlling, self-centred, clueless manager/CEO who is more concerned with appearances than productivity. Morro is a delight who charms instantly but poor Jasp has to bear the burden of being satirically, accurately comparable to bosses we have all had. Except for the completely red nose and starched crinolines, she is a dead ringer for two of my recent bosses who were all about meetings and office image, with nary an inkling of how to manage employees, do their job or even what the production process entailed.

The opening of Morro and Jasp: 9 - 5 does not bode well. The duo are so perky and cute that they initially grate in that way that clowns that are not seedy, sex-crazed, killers or visibly alcoholic, do. The prospect of an evening of theatre that could double as a child's birthday party is a daunting one. A few witty lines, a few satirical jabs, and one obscene drawing erase those fears while simultaneously playing up the duo's innocence and spirit. It is a fine line to clown across but by the finale, what should be saccharine becomes heartwarming and moving with just enough satire to undercut the sugar and deliver the medicine.

There are many gags that lampoon office life and a Dragon's Den parody is smartly delivered in a coherent context. For all the glorious chaos that occurs as the office is reduced to a shambles, the script remains on track and all the thematic moments tie together beautifully. Even the risky, for clowns and those being entertained, audience participation pulls 9 - 5 together rather than threatening to derail it or collapse the fourth wall beyond repair.

A treadmill re-purposed, a mild and repeated gross-out gag, and one very, very clever sound effect, all reduced the audience, and myself, to helpless laughter. When gathering around the office water cooler the day after, those who have seen Morro and Jasp: 9 - 5 will share favourite quips and moments amidst laughter. Though their current fate, under the thumb of clowns who give real clowns a bad name, is tragic, a visit to JMI Industries is delightful comic relief.

Morro and Jasp: 9 - 5 continues until Sun, May 31 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. factorytheatre.ca


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