Theater: Comic Karate

MONTY PYTHON LIVE!

The human body is one of comedy's supple tools. In agility, it releases tonic exuberance. As an object of humiliation through banana-peel pratfalls or pies in the face, it evokes instant delight. Even distortions or grotesqueries of the body—obesity, dwarfishness, eccentric gaits, tics, stutters, deafness and drunken staggers—have all been known to provoke a startling comic catharsis in playgoers.

The silent film thrived on that catharsis. So did vaudeville, and that Broadway combustion engine of explosive anarchy known as Hellzapoppin. Britain's Monty Python troupe, which opened live at Manhattan's City Center last week, renews that comic tradition, and its success...