In My Funny Bone, the latest offering from Brian Sanders’ JUNK, the boundary-breaking choreographer/dancer traces the evolution of his, let’s say, “eccentric” sense of humor from childhood to the present in a revue-style show of sixteen irreverent vignettes that, as a whole, are decidedly not for all ages. If you’re easily (or even not so easily) offended by acerbic, salacious, and scatological humor, you might want to take a pass on this one. But if you appreciate over-the-top no-holds-barred physical expression that ranges from the satirical to the off-color, the risqué to the full-out raunchy, this is the show for you!
Presented by an audacious troupe of six exciting and accomplished performers (Theodore Fatscher, Julia Higdon, Regan Jackson, Chelsea Prunty, William Robinson, and Kelly Trevlyn) along with the master himself, the styles of dance range from balletic to erotic to acrobatic, and the moods of the individual pieces span the sublime to the ridiculous. There are dances with a port-o-potty and a toilet, with creepy puppets and phalluses of all sizes (lots and lots of them!). There are silly sight gags with audience interactions and doppelgängers, fake limbs and faux levitations, and icky ‘aquabatics’ based in urination, vomiting, defecation, and ejaculation. Through it all, guest host Kyle Yackoski provides a comic running commentary and narrative on the “perilous journey through the mind of Brian Sanders,” mischievously noting that there’s “plenty there to psychoanalyze.”
The show opens with Sanders donning a wild grey wig and tuxedo in “Maestro,” conducting a piece by Vivaldi while passionately gesturing, playing a clump of his hair with a bow, rhythmically ribbon twirling with his baton, and leaning his body into a near horizontal position, enabled by ski boots bolted to the floor. In subsequent numbers, Higdon and Fatscher dance a beautiful pas-de-deux plagued by flatulence (“Air on the G String”); Trevlyn, Higdon, and Prunty do a bawdy gender-bending take-off on Tom Cruise’s famous dance in his underwear from Risky Business (“Tom Cruising”); the whole company whirls around in circles in long white dervish-style skirts until Higdon – who appears as a health-food and exercise proponent in a preceding video clip with Yackoski (videography by Les Rivera) – becomes nauseous (“Extreme Power Derv”); and Robinson and Fatscher rough up a former JUNK supporter in absentia, who emailed Sanders a complaint about the provocative contents of a previous production (“Duplicitous Acts”).
Among the most entertaining of the show’s segments are two hilarious parodies of the 1983 film Flash Dance, featuring terrific high-energy performances by Fatscher in “Flushdance” and Higdon and her uncredited dance double (if I told you who, it wouldn’t be in keeping with the send-up) in “Dopplegangler.” The show concludes with the nearly naked troupe creating exquisite abstract patterns with their bodies in “Kaleidoscope,” which includes a stunning live-feed large-screen video projection behind them of their changing shapes, and the illusion of flight as they gracefully slide across the floor. All of the sequences are performed under the arresting lighting of Alyssandra Docherty, with colorful chiaroscuro tones that highlight the sculpted musculature of the skillful dancers.
My Funny Bone is a daring and uncensored exposé of what makes Brian Sanders laugh, though its oftentimes gross and graphic humor is not for everyone. If you’re looking for G-rated family entertainment, consider yourself forewarned; and if you go, don’t complain, or you, too, might end up being the butt of a joke in a future show!
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, including an intermission.
My Funny Bone plays through Sunday, May 14, 2017, at Brian Sanders’ JUNK, performing at Penn’s Landing Playhouse – 211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (267) 407-6080, or purchase them online.