When Harry Met Harry
August 4 and 6
Well, it was bound to happen. I didn’t think I could go an entire Fringe Fest without sitting through a play where people were laughing hysterically and I was stone-faced with boredom. It seems When Harry Met Harry will be my head-shaking, “how can people think this is funny” play this festival.
The show is a one-man comedy about an obsessively efficient, prissy and anti-social office worker named Harry who is ordered into an interpersonal skills workshop after his boss, Mr. Herbert, receives complaints about his conduct.
Before Harry is sent for training, we are introduced to his various strange behaviours. He will not answer the phone before 9am (the opening hour for the business) and ends a call abruptly at noon for the lunch break. Harry clocks his calls to see how efficient he has been and then awards himself points based on his performance. He gains rapture from the office forms he has created and when no one is looking fondles and rubs them up against his body. Similarly, in a show of abject love for timeliness, Harry licks his desk clock several on several occasions in the privacy of his office.
None of this is subtle. Not the writing or the physical performance by Allan Girod who uses his tall and lanky figure in an overly demonstrative way that borders on slapstick.
Then the audience participation kicks in. Or rather the bringing of “volunteers” into the play begins. An audience member is pulled on stage to play Harry’s junior assistant and is used as a foil to further show Harry’s inability to manage others and his petty feelings towards anyone who he thinks may show him up. The “volunteer” is excused after a while but is referred to for the duration of the play.
When Harry gets the call from Mr. Herbert demanding that he attend the workshop, Harry tries to get out of it by stepping in front of a moving car in order to injure himself, but the car misses and Harry is unharmed. He tries this only after going through his “book of excuses” that contains such original jokes as “my dog ate it” and “my grandmother died”, which he realizes he can’t use because he’s already employed that excuse three times before.
At the workshop, Girod takes on the character of Rodney, the over the top and overly acted seminar facilitator. Rodney, a parody of the stereotypical touchy-feely human resources expert takes the audience through a series of “communication” exercises, once again calling on volunteers from the audience to participate. Eventually Harry is called upon to participate and is woefully inept at all the challenges. With his fear that Mr. Herbert his boss is watching, Harry tries to put on a good show, but his personality failings are just too much and he gets fired. In an effort not to finish on a down note, the end of the play brings some kind of “learning moment” when Harry, now unemployed and forced to look at his failings, takes a baby step towards change.
The storyline was fine I suppose and had it been handled with more subtlety in both acting and writing (l give you the TV show The Office as an example) I might not have found the humour to be so mundane and obvious. I have nothing against loud, boisterous, physical comedy, but for me When Harry Met Harry left me without so much as a giggle.
For the guys – Maybe it’s a Three Stooges kinda thing. And maybe if you like them you’ll like this show. MAYBE SEE IT
For the girls – I suppose it’s not any worse than most mainstream comedies on Network TV. MAYBE SEE IT
For the occasional audience – It’s been well received both here in Calgary and at other festivals. So obviously people like it. SEE IT
For the theatre junkie – I don’t care if other people like it. I cannot in good conscious recommend this to you. SKIP IT