David Strassman's The Chocolate Diet (Athenaeum Theatre) - 90 minutes, plus interval
He calls Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre his second home and why wouldn’t he because audiences love him here every time he tours.
Put simply, David Strassman is in a stratosphere all his own when it comes to ventriloquism.
Photos by Adam Shane
In his hands and with his vocalisation, his puppets come to life. They are naïve, antagonistic, impudent and oh so funny.
Strassman is a consummate entertainer that interacts freely and easily with the crowds that flock to his shows.
While Ted E. Bare is his most popular creation and the undoubted star of The Chocolate Diet, Strassman also tees off with other characters.
I refer to Chuck Wood, Grandpa Fred, Sid Beaverman, Kevin, the Alien and Buttons, the Clown.
Strassman questions Ted E. about the wisdom of his all-chocolate diet – which the latter loves – and encourages balance. Then through four vignettes over the two acts that constitute the show we see how that plays out.
The set is a testament to Ted E’s chocolate addiction, with the added “attraction” of a fried food backdrop (mind you, that changes from time to time).
Strassman and Ted E. are a wonderful, warm and inviting combination. The jokes, which often result in unbridled laughter from the audience, come thick and fast.
Seamlessly inserting references to Melbourne suburbs and Victorian regional towns into his overall performance endears Strassman to us even more.
While Ted E. tops and tails the production, it is the evil, sarcastic and selfish Chuck Wood that baits from the sidelines. And then he “enters”, wearing a blonde wig.
Chuck is undergoing an identity crisis and the foul-mouthed puppet that seems to get his jollies by denouncing Strassman has the comedian perplexed.
Grandpa Fred doesn’t mind dropping an epithet or two either. He is tripping from a combination of Panadol laced with acid, heroin and other drugs. He also enjoys a belly laugh and has a tendency to nod off mid-sentence.
Sid Beaverman is stuck in a vortex of old jokes and puns, which come tumbling out at speed.
After interval, courtesy of an impressive lit up globe, Kevin, the Alien appears and tells us what is wrong with the world. And then Buttons, the Clown emerges from a toy box much worse for wear. He is shickered.
Sex and politics are comfortable risqué terrain for Strassman, who also manages to work virtual assistants Siri and Alexa into his routine.
And The Chocolate Diet also has song – including a duet – as part of the repertoire, as all his characters want to “open their lungs”, despite Strassman’s protestations.
With two 45-minute brackets, The Chocolate Diet is a fun-filled cavalcade of comedy that is bound to put a smile on your face.
It is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until 20th November, 2022.
To find out more about David Strassman’s Australian and New Zealand tour dates, go to: https://www.davidstrassman.com