Kristen Schaal & Kurt Braunohler: Double Down Hearts

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Queen of kook Kristen Schaal made something of a stir with her 2007 Edinburgh debut, but her double act with Kurt Braunohler takes quirky comedy to daft new level.

Her solo show was dangerously close to being washed away in a tide of whimsy; but with Braunohler there is some counter to her cute. Not that he’s entirely well-balanced himself, but the dialogue zips and zings in a way her monologue couldn’t.

Their pacy, razor-sharp banter mixes smart surrealism with sexual frisson. Not an obvious recipe at all, but they pull in off with lashings of charm. They’re both appealing performers, utterly at home on stage, and able to raise a laugh with a sidewise glance or well-judged pause. You suspect that much of the time they’re just trying to make each other laugh. Certainly, they’re quick-witted improvisers, and some of the lines have a newly-minted freshness. Schaal combines her easy stage presence with a wide-eyed baby-doll vulnerability, while Braunohler is more assertive, sometimes to beautifully exaggerated effect.

Double Down Hearts is supposedly their new play, a melodramatic thriller oft-rejected by Broadway. But tonight we get a peak of three scenes, presented in reverse order, and becoming slightly weaker each time. But it’s one of the very few things that doesn’t come off in the entire show.

This sparky selection of skits includes Pocahontas performing phone sex, and Schaal being set up on a date with a member of the audience. The scenes never quite play out how you expect them, often slowly zeroing in on the core idea from an obtuse angle, or paying off with an unexpected flourish.

A highlight is another instalment from their internet film series, Penelope Princess Of Pets, with some delightfully daft moments. But the whole hour of sharply-focussed high jinks is bright, vigorous and funny.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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