Max and Ivan: Commitment review – a doozy of a comedy show | Stage
‘I don’t do things by half,” says Max Olesker. Anyone who’s seen Max and Ivan’s legendary sports/comedy spectacular, The Wrestling, can confirm this. But the duo’s new show recounts Olesker’s biggest challenge yet in events organising: his sidekick’s stag do. Ivan Gonzalez got married this year, and best man Olesker knew exactly how to launch his friend into marital life – by reassembling the groom’s teenage band for one longed-for final gig.
Did he succeed? I won’t give anything away, save that Commitment is a doozy of a comedy show, big of heart, packed with laughter and sure to send you home wreathed in smiles. It follows the template of their previous shows, in that the twosome spin the story across an hour, acting out every role. Gonzalez gets the easiest job, playing himself: a nerd who thinks he’s groovy, dreaming of rock stardom but doomed never to progress beyond grainy home video and the listings pages of the Wirral Globe.
Olesker plays Gonzalez’s bandmates (cue thick scouse accent) as the show traces the rise and fall of Voodoo 7:2, up to and including Olesker’s failure to reunite them for Gonzalez’s 30th birthday a few years ago. For that, he received a record low score according to his own party-planning algorithm – a formula elucidated here on an upstage screen. So too Gonzalez’s contrived new lexicon Ivanglish, the prank emails with which Olesker secured an upmarket venue for the stag, and some problematic doodles drawn by the infant Max.
The show pinballs between these visual gags, their childhood backstories (both Olesker and Gonzalez’s infant selves get ruthlessly mocked) and the bachelor party buildup. Under Kieran Hodgson’s direction, the gags cascade fast and the pair send themselves up so enthusiastically, you barely realise how much you’ve started to care – about the duo’s friendship, the ambitions we nursed as kids and what value they retain. A terrific closing joke mistaking Olesker’s fantasy career threatens to derail – but only delays – this lovely show’s triumphal finale. If Voodoo 7:2 only ever amount to this, all those teenage dreams were not in vain.