jasp (amy lee) & morro (heather marie annis)
During the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival I tried twice to see Morro and Jasp GONE WILD and both times was turned away at the door because the house was sold-out, with a line extending down the street. For the last five years I have been waiting with ardent anticipation to finally get to experience the shenanigans of two of Canada’s favourite clowns and tonight, in the house of Morro & Jasp 9-5, they managed to exceed five years worth of expectations and thoroughly steal my heart.
In Morro & Jasp 9-5 clown sisters Morro (creative, playful, clumsy and childlike) and Jasp (serious, ambitious, high-strung and meticulous) found MJI Industries, eager to attract investors for their new business to ward off the loan sharks. Unfortunately, they find themselves in a pickle without a product, which sets off a chain of chaos, hilarity and power struggles between Morro’s desire to play and create and Jasp’s desire to succeed.
The result is a play that is engaging and delightful, heartwarming and sweet and constantly laugh-out-loud funny. Morro and Jasp send audiences out of the theatre with a bounce in their step and a grin on their face in a way that is rare at a time when cynicism and irony are so prevalent and the weight of the World’s woes are always at our fingertips. Heather Marie Annis (Morro) and Amy Lee (Jasp) prove that you can create something that is smart and has depth, while being entirely joyful and engaged every moment in the very truest sense of the word play. Most amazingly, Morro and Jasp are so charming that they manage to entice their audience to actively play along with them. Audience participation can be scary and off-putting, but the innate kindness of these two clowns, along with the deft improvising of Annis and Lee, make the audience feel safe and comfortable enough to engage. Annis’ heart-on-sleeve Morro, brimful of best intentions, but prone to epic disasters, nearly immediately fastens the entire audience steadfastly to her side against her sister’s unfairness and bossiness. Lee’s Jasp is the most adorable dictator, prone to hilarious bouts of quiet seething, exasperated shouts and sneaky macaroni maneuvers. Yet, at their hearts is the complex love of two sisters, wildly different, who would do anything to help the other and who both benefit from the other’s strengths.
The physical comedy of Annis and Lee is constant and magical. From Morro fashioning a desk out of cardboard boxes to her strokes of genius with radio and lightbulb, and the way that Jasp moves as though she were a rag doll, make you feel like Morro and Jasp aren’t entirely human— that these clowns are something make believe that have come to life. It gives you the sense that anything is possible, including magic. There are great gags, including one surrounding a mimed wall and door, and terrific use of a conveyor belt, reminiscent of a vintage Donald Duck cartoon, but even funnier because we see it happening live in front of us. Director Byron Laviolette makes excellent use of the Factory Studio Space, with audience members surrounding the clowns on both sides, which helps make the audience feel like we are all inhabiting a communal space, without a fourth wall between us. It also helps to raise the stakes for Morro and Jasp as the investors approach and the pressure is on them to find a product to pitch, the audience is closed in around them and anticipating eyes stare at them from all angles. Laviolette also makes terrific use of music and crisp blackouts to add a bit of texture, as well as signifying the passage of time. Lyon Smith’s sound and David DeGrow’s lights are active players with Morro and Jasp, which adds another layer to the show’s magical quality.
Move over Oprah. Morro & Jasp 9-5 is FAB.U.LOUS!
Morro & Jasp 9-5 plays at the Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst Street) until May 31st, 2015. For tickets visit factorytheatre.com, visit the box office or call 416.504.9971.