Relax, theatre practitioners: the Hunchinson family is zero threat to your collective livelihood. As we discover early in this clown-based show by Brooklyn/San Francisco-based Under the Table theatre, the trio of Hunchinson siblings is attempting to mount a stage play based on Victor Hugo’s melodramatic and therefore ripe-for-the-pillorying story The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Fortunately for you practitioners and for us audience members who love a good laugh, the clan is as inept as it is dysfunctional.
All of which makes The Hunchbacks of Notre Dame at once absurd, funny and oddly endearing.
Paul Hunchinson (Josh Matthews) is the writer-cum-director of the play-within-a-play who gives his director’s notes using free-form dance moves (theatre itself is just one of the many targets here). When not battling with his un-cooperative brother and sister, he plays the priest in Hugo’s story.
Paul’s subversive brother Johann (Matt Chapman) is Quasimodo, a guy whose hump looks distinctly artificial and who’s expected to clamber about the creaky scaffolding hung with bed sheets that represents Notre Dame Cathedral. Johann keeps trying to make his brother’s show more marketable by rewriting the script while also trying to earn a few bucks by selling stuff like a used car tire mid-performance; this, of course, brings him into continual conflict with his delusional brother Paul. Johann/Quasimodo also sings, badly but enthusiastically.
The lads’ willowy sister Hilde (Sarah Petersiel) divides her time between playing, with no special commitment, Esmeralda and fishing, with commitment, for the companionship of male audience members. At once self-effacing and forceful, she, like we, has absolutely no idea what’s about to happen next but is content to go along for the ride.
If you get the chance to go along for this clever comic ride, bring your throwing arm: at one point, the audience gets to chuck paper “rocks” at the hapless Hunchinsons. We did so. With vigour.
The Hunchbacks of Notre Dame
At The Gladstone until Nov. 1
Johann Hunchinson/Quasimodo: Matt Chapman
Paul Leonard Hunchinson/The Priest: Josh Matthews
Hilda Hunchinson/Esmerelda: Sarah Petersiel
Includes music by Cliff Rawson, lighting design by Dave Dawson, and costumes by Lydia Forman and Ashley Dunn.