BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
05/03/2022 - 12/03/2022
What happens when you get two best friends together and have them perform a comedy show that’s all made up entirely on-the-spot? Loveable characters? Fun and unique stories? Quick and witty shenanigans? All of the above, it turns out.
Maximum Benefit is a two-person improv comedy show featuring two best pals Max Porozny and Ben Jardine. The duo take audiences on a completely improvised comedy journey through the interweaving lives of made-up characters and stories. From an audience suggestion, Max and Ben spin a unique tale that features fresh characters, plots, stakes, hahas, awws, and more!
“A supremely entertaining show that I’d happily watch again and again.” Regional News
Everything Max and Ben do is made up on-the-spot. Nothing is planned or written beforehand, so every show is completely different and is never to be seen again. The joy of improv means that audiences discover these characters and plots in real time with Max and Ben, and the audience and how they react have as much influence in the show as the performers themselves.
Expect sixty minutes of laughs, goofs, and heartfelt moments—all made up in real-time!
BATS Theatre, The Stage
Sat 5 March – Tickets available through bats.co.nz
Sat 12 March – Tickets available through Fringe and bats.co.nz
GROUP 6+ $18
ADDICT CARDHOLDER $16
THE DIFFERENCE $40
Max Porozny and Ben Jardine
Theatre , Improv , Comedy ,
1 hr Saturdays only
Lots of laughs and little else
Review by Shauwn Keil 08th Mar 2022
I haven’t been to BATS all Fringe. I’ve missed it. It’s great to be here. Entering The Stage with my friend, we address the two black chairs that make up the entirety of the set. Hope fills our minds. How are they going to be used to fill an hour of improvised comedy? We come to realize that we set that bar unfairly high as a pair of pretentious performers, and sometimes chairs are just going to be exactly as you know them to be. And that’s OK.
(Max)imum (Ben)efit. If you haven’t already worked out how they named it, look at it a few more times. Without too much waiting, Ben Jardine and Max Porozny, our two performers for the night, enter the stage. We’re straight into audience suggestion mode, hearing a number of ideas (alcohol, Ryan Reynolds, your mum, to name a few) that go noticed but are not used for the ground work of what’s to come. Birds takes the win, and a short conversation begins between Max, Ben, and the person behind me. The comedians mine what they can, and before you know it, we’re in a liminal space with two chairs.
Before long, the two work out that this space is a movie theatre, hosting a film festival for bird film trailers. Attendees are theatre owner, Mr Seymour, and another young man who winds up being his neighbour. The improvised setting up is incredibly obvious between the two, with questions such as “You’re my neighbour, right?” And “It’s Mr Seymour, right?” But that’s likely required for the performers to catch what information they can from each other and be used to refer back to in later scenes. Still, this takes a little of the surprise out of the discoveries made in the moment, and I feel like I might be watching two players hoping that they’ll make it work, especially with statements that have audible question marks. “Yeah, I own this theatre(?)”
I feel early on that I need to refresh and re-frame my state of mind for this type of theatre. My early criticisms likely do not match the general audience, who are on side and laughing away with each stumble and uncertain discovery. It is fair to say that I’m not the target audience, and certainly inexperienced in viewing improvised shows. I laugh at moments that make me laugh, and can quickly address that Ben and Max are excellent listeners when it comes to the things they say about themselves, each other, and other circumstances around them in the show (with a few forgivable slip ups).
When the two stitch each other up with challenges, I find myself on the fence. On one hand, these moments provide laughter as we can see that the facade has broken and the other performer breaks character for a second, silently acknowledging the other’s cruel offer. On the other, I find it self-indulgent and want to see more teamwork; these two are already funny lads, and if stunting the flow is part of the brand, it’s not obvious to me.
Few more characters arise through the story, and all are swapped between the performers at some point. This is a fun dynamic that, for me, stands out as the one unique trait of the show. I wish that the two could listen to each other as performers as much as they do on their made up content, however. Physicality is inconsistent, accents and speech mannerisms come and go between them, but they do hold good memory of where each character stood (or sat) at the very least. Still, this shows me absolute minimal commitment to the character. I’m no stranger to ‘low-key’ naturalism, but even that requires some energy and awareness. I’m not asking for glitter and pyrotechnics.
Sometimes they become aware of one another; a FaceTime call that isn’t reading visually is eventually called out, in character of course, and the moment ends up working brilliantly as an honest mistake of the character rather than the actor. But more often than not, I’m not convinced that the pair are in sync with each other as much as they should be beyond words that are spoken. An hour requires that stamina.
Half-attempts at mime, forcing Sue Grafton novels in to the narrative, and constant spelling out things that we, the audience, already know from prior set up are a little bit disappointing. Even after I’ve given myself the permission to watch this show as an entirely new experience, I observe many of the same old mistakes that are more common in inexperienced practitioners.
I laugh a lot, don’t get me wrong, I find a lot of what played out quite funny, as do my friend and the entire room around me, and that’s what tonight is for, and that is a win in its own right. But there’s a long way to go for these two to create a truly unique and memorable experience in the theatre. Jardine and Porozny are witty, no dispute, but I want them to knock this out of the park.
No two shows will be the same, and I hope that there’s a fully charged fresh performance for their last show on the 12th of March, 8.30pm, at BATS Theatre.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer