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'Amusements' review — a comedy full of curiosities

Read our four-star review of Ikechukwu Ufomadu's Amusements, one of three solo shows currently running off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons through December 3.

Caroline Cao
Caroline Cao

Ikechukwu Ufomadu is a comic cipher that sent me pondering. When attempting to inform myself with Ufomadu's work before seeing his show Amusements at Playwrights Horizons (directed by Nemuna Ceesay), my eyes landed on a video of him reading and twisting dictionary words and a ribbitting rendition of “New York, New York.”

Attracting our attention with his amiable talk-show grin and twinkles in his eyes, he enters the stage informing us, “I am playing a comedian.” His M.O. seems to be parodying the role of comedian rather than being one. He also introduces himself as “from the Northern Hemisphere.” He teases us that he will sneak homophones of the word “too.” Mundane words are funny enough for him.

Mid-act, Ufomadu does something that brings attention to the relationship between audience and performer: He prompts a role reversal game between them. A comic might ask for a volunteer. In Amusements, he offers himself as a volunteer for the audience. He claps for us and encourages us to clap for ourselves. And when he claps for us, he belabors his hands in slow-motion to give his audience an applause, as if he’s on the brink of making a dying heroic sacrifice in an action movie.

At times, I found myself among stragglers in a sea of laughter, but Ufomadu accomplishes unthinkable absurdities, cajoling us into interactions that wouldn’t read as chortle-worthy on paper. Somehow, he lures us into an ABCs sing-along. Somehow, a mundane FAQ on a PowerPoint snags us into a “Do You Hear What I Hear” sing-along, and the joke is that the lyrics run for eternity. In Amusements, you’ll always find yourself curious about his next course of action.

Amusements runs at Playwrights Horizons through December 3.

Amusements runs on alternating nights with School Pictures and Sad Boys in Harpy Land. Read reviews of all three shows here.

Photo credit: Ikechukwu Ufomadu in Amusements. (Photo courtesy of production)

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