Photograph by Jim Carmody
If physical comedy isn't based on the character, it won't get a laugh.
This is a funny show. It needs to be funny. If it weren’t funny it would be offensive, especially in our delicate and easily offended culture. The characters are so exaggerated that we don’t take them seriously, which allows us to relax and have fun.
However, the entire show is based on one of the prevailing situational comedy tropes. The title actually says it all: “Bad hombres and good wives.”
As is the norm, the men in this show are generally incompetent buffoons whose character flaws are legion. The women, on the other hand, are basically perfect. Their minimal flaws exist only because the “male gaze” has been imposed on them. But it does make for good comedy.
I wonder how long this lopsided representation of male characters is going to persist. I see it everywhere. Almost every commercial involving a family is based on the mom or daughter having their act together, while the father or son are oblivious to the situation.
I believe this type of depiction of men is potentially damaging. I can imagine a scenario in which women expect men to be oblivious dolts, and so men expect themselves to be oblivious dolts, and so men become, by and large, oblivious dolts. Some people would like to believe that’s already the case.
One element I really liked about Bad Hombres, Good Wives is that the characters’ “crazy” matched well. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, we’re all crazy here, and the key to a fruitful relationship is to find someone whose crazy matches your crazy.
Speaking of crazy, the physical comedy in Bad Hombres, Good Wives is spectacular. Physical comedy is notoriously tough to pull off, because it is often based on an idea the actor or director had, and that idea may or may not be based on the character. If it isn’t based on the character, it won’t get a laugh.
Character-based physical humor can be a lot of fun: think Jim Carrey or Chevy Chase. Bad Hombres, Good Wives is just that. A lot of fun.
Bad Hombres, Good Wives is plays at San Diego Repertory Theatre through October 27, 2019.