The Funniest Man Alive tries to help the Most Pathetic Guy Ever make the Saddest Girl in the World laugh. That sounds like the beginning of a great joke. It is also the premise of Kat Sandler’s play, Punch Up which was winner of Best of Fringe at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Fest.
While studying at George Brown Theatre School Benton Hartley met Sandler, and a classmate recommended this script as something Hartley would likely enjoy. “He couldn’t have been more right. I was laughing for hours after I finished my first read,” Hartley says.
Hartley is playing Duncan, the “Most Pathetic Guy Ever.” Duncan is a bit of a sad sack. He meets a girl, falls in love for the first time, and vows to save her life by making her laugh. When asked to describe his character, Hartley says, “Duncan lacks rational decision-making capabilities, for sure. He definitely finds himself in a bad situation that was entirely of his own making, which is incredibly fun to play.”
Morgan Wagner is playing Brenda, a woman who is convinced that her love is hurting the people that she cares about the most. In an effort to save others, Brenda has shut down her emotions and cut herself off from any kind of human connection and without the ability to laugh or love, has become the “Saddest Girl in the World.” “I was first drawn to Punch Up, because it is a piece of contemporary Canadian theatre by a female playwright. As I read it, I was captivated by Sandler’s dark humour and knew that I wanted a chance to bring her absurd characters to life,” says Wagner.
The logical choice to play Pat, the “Funniest Man in the World” is Rob MacDonald. When asked about joining the cast, MacDonald explains, “I don’t want to brag, but in my career, I have had well over two different people (it was three people) each tell me, independently of each other, that I was the funniest person on PEI. I, of course, categorically refute such a preposterous notion, but, still, well over two people can’t be wrong, can they?”
Grace Kimpinski is producer. “Joining the team was a no-brainer: the script is witty and smart, balanced with very touching moments; and casting couldn’t have been more bang-on.”
Punch Up can be seen at 8 pm in the Watermark Theatre, North Rustico, October 24 to 26 and at The Guild in Charlottetown October 31 to November 2. Get tickets at ticketwizard.ca (Watermark); theguildpei.com (Guild).