Three Times Three
Everyone’s a loser in the winning new comedy “Personal Space,” a triptych of comedic tales by performers Stephen Colfer, Hannah Mamalis, and Peter McGann. Featuring three tales with last minute twists, each written and performed by combinations of two of the aforementioned performers, “Personal Space” delivers large, if inconsistently, on giggles, and smiles, and more than a few big laughs. Focusing on events surrounding two onstage and one absent character, each story might be written and performed by a different combination, but the format, style, and tone of all three share striking similarities, making “Personal Space” look and feel like an ensemble piece. Yet if the comedy is often clever, the gags often great, and the laughter often loud, these three stretched sketches deliver less of a full fledged production and more of a talent showcase. One designed to highlight the considerable performative and writing talents of its three impressive cast.
Opening with Death of the Three Musketeers, written and performed by Mamalis and McGann, events kick off in a post The Graduate scenario, where a bride and best man, having shagged and then shagged off, leaving the unsuspecting groom at the altar, find themselves in an apartment of ill repute trying to figure things out. The Amateurs, written and performed by Colfer and McGann, sees a recently widowed, newly established, Air BnB owner welcoming a suspicious conspiracy theorist into his home with hilarious results. Wrapping up with Little Lunch by Colfer and Mamalis, a too cool for school teacher, and a needy nerd of nefarious intent, set out to unravel the mystery of the recently disappeared Darren.
As short, one act plays go, “Personal Space’s “three tales don’t bear up as well under any serious scrutiny. Rather, the overwhelming sense is that of watching three sketches that have overstayed their welcome. Short scenes stretched beyond the point till you feel they’re being milked for more than they’re worth. Even so, “Personal Space” still delivers some absolutely hilarious moments. Yet, theatrically at least, it might have benefited from a director. One who might have balanced the hurried pace a little better, with some lines delivered so fast you miss out, whilst tightening up its staggered, stuttering flow and individual issues. Such as Death of the Three Musketeers ingenuously twisted ending, realised in a fashion a little too clever for its own good, going over the heads of quite a number of people. Structurally, had these sketches been tighter, and shorter, with the time given over to additional sketches, “Personal Space” could well have been one of the best comedy shows of the year. As it stands, it feels like a comedy sketch show dressed up as a theatre production, falling somewhere unevenly between the two, and doesn’t quite deliver the knockout punch it might have. Even so, if “Personal Space,” as a theatrical work, would’ve certainly benefited from a director, and possibly a dramaturg, you cannot help being blown away by the raw, instinctive talents of Mamalis, McGann, and Colfer. If their writing is often strong, performatively they are supremely funny, both collectively and individually.
As one act comedies go, “Personal Space” often feels lightweight and underdeveloped. As a sketch show, it feels far too over developed. Yet delivering three funny tales and a promise for the future, with bundles of laughs and three brilliant performances, “Personal Space” proves itself larger, and laughs louder, than its uneven constituent parts. A production that leaves you excited for what’s yet to come from three incredibly promising talents. Catch them now, so you can say you saw them when.
“Personal Space” by Stephen Colfer, Hannah Mamalis, and Peter McGann, runs at Smock Alley Theatre until January 20th
For more information, visit Smock Alley Theatre