Brunch Punkx | Comedy Review
Brunch Punkx, the latest song-and-dance from the Annoyance, theoretically could have come from the mind of Christian Lander, creator of Stuff White People Like, a blog that birthed two books. Of his original list, two of Lander’s buzzwords join forces for Brunch Punkx (#77. Musical Comedy; #36. Breakfast Places) with implied references to several others (#54. Kitchen Gadgets; #46. The Sunday New York Times; #24. Wine; #6. Organic Food; and #1. Coffee). Ignoring the clunky online description, I invented preconceptions for Brunch Punkx based off Landers, the First World Problems Twitter feed, and the show’s poster, a spoof on the Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” cover art (with Julia Child replacing the monarch). Attending Sunday’s matinee, I hoped for something part Breakfast Club and part Beastie Boys (sample from their 2009 album “Hello Nasty”: “I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast/But I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast”).
I like the title, inspiration, cast, and Lisa McQueen’s music in Brunch Punkx. The script, though, is caterwauling for massive plot changes and extensive cuts (in its defense, this was only the second official performance—just 14 hours after the first). In the expectant first scene and song, six cooks ascend the stage from the center aisle, chanting a round that begins “Sautee, hot stove, sous chef, Baked Alaska” and welcoming the congregation to a culinary church. Our actors melodiously mock all that is mockable about brunch (it’s classist and lackadaisical; a hangout for the hungover). Onstage, we want to see kitchen dynamics and rivalries develop during a weekend service, but within 15 minutes an announcer informs us that the Brunch Program at Culinary U. has been cancelled. Already, things are getting complicated—we’re now processing that the “chefs” are actually students of an unrealistic curriculum at a made-up college. This news leads an uppity student with Anthony Bourdain ambitions to walk out, tripping to his death on a tandoori grill. His former classmates, of course, eat him. All this happens in the first three scenes of a nearly two-hour musical.
Despite their cannibalistic tendencies, we care about these chefs, who are trying to make lives for themselves after surviving difficult childhoods, arriving in a hyper-competitive business during a harrowing recession. Some characters are more sympathetic than others (Christina Boucher excels as sex-kitteny Midwestern mom Diane, but when she claims to be “upper class,” we wonder why she’s studying at a fourth-rate culinary program, unless she’s insecure and exaggerating).
What we don’t care about AT ALL is the jarring subplot, a soon-to-be-executed ex-Nickelodeon star named Wendy (guilty of matricide and patricide) requests brunch as her last meal, that parasitically gobbles the original story. The prison warden, with his strict enforcement of “breakfast, lunch, and dinner only,” isn’t much of a villain. He reminded me of a less-mean version of John Lithgow in Footloose—“These dances and this kind of music can be destructive”…but why? I found Brunch Punkx’s sneaking-into-prison charade flawed for tons of reasons (some intentionally placed there by director Irene Marquette, whose misfit, misfiring crew is a modern Daphne, Fred, Velma and Shaggy). First, a young, white, female former child star would never, ever get the death penalty. Second, “brunch” isn’t something people request, like “tacos” or “edamame”—people go to brunch; it gets its own special name because it’s an event: a casual, communal dining experience with the possibility of a morning cocktail. No one has brunch alone (except maybe Alexander’s character, a loner—and shagadelic dancer—who asks, “Would the Eiffel Tower be as magnificent if there was another Eiffel Tower right next to it?").
Brunch Punkx runs Saturdays at 10pm through May 5 at the Annoyance.