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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
Do You Come Here Often?
by Les Gutman
"the right size" is a highly regarded British comedy theater duo consisting of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl. Not inadvisably, they fortified themselves for their New York debut by first performing in seventeen other countries, and picking up the Olivier for Best Entertainment along the way. Gauging how an American audience will react to British humor is a risky proposition.
One source of our confusion is that we are not as good as the British at knowing when to stop intellectualizing, analyzing and explaining. There is a long essay about learning life's lessons that Do You Come Here Often? suggests, and another about how Beckettian it is. Resist, as I will, the temptation to contemplate either. There are, in fact, a plethora of inspirations for this piece, ranging, at the most obvious level, from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life to The Wizard of Oz to Piers Paul Read's Alive, from Laurel and Hardy to Calvin and Hobbes, from Irwin and Shiner to Flanagan and Allen. And let's not forget the white-faced clowns, because a French clown school is where Foley and McColl met.
They are, in fact, splendid clowns, and that's at the core of why we come here. Dough-faced Foley, whose character has adopted the name Kevin Kevin, is fearless and often confused. His partner McColl, with a pair of the most theatrical eyes I've ever seen, is known as David Seymore. He'd have you believe he's less silly. As with all good clowns, they make you laugh, but ultimately they also make you care about them. They may appear to hate each other, as brothers often do, but they love each other in much the same way.
As Seymore lectures Kevin, a story must have "a beginning, a middle and and end," and this one does, more or less. After being jolted out of our seats with a bang, followed by a playfully ominous, foretelling ballet of lights, we find the duo bound and gagged in a bathroom. How and when they got in this predicament is a bit fuzzy. Kevin remembers running out to the store (his clothes are on over his pajamas); Seymore had been at a wedding reception (and remains dressed for the occasion throughout). This being Britain, class is important, and theirs is not the same: Kevin is a working class couch potato; Seymore, a far fancier yachtsman. They will remain together in the bathroom for 25 years.
Their story covers a fair majority of those years. It's about discovering doors and keys, and losing the latter in the toilet. Although it would seem a more pressing matter, the question of sustenance doesn't arise for a number of years. When it does (the extent of their available nourishment is the pint of milk and single egg Kevin had purchased just before finding himself here), it's only to set up two of the show's funniest moments; Kevin consuming the carton of long-ago curdled milk, and David adopting the egg (named Evan) as his pet, at least until Kevin at his cruelest, cracks the shell. "Evan, pull yourself together," says Seymore to the splattered remains. This is about as gross as the show's humor gets: smartly, they circumnavigate any semblance of bathroom humor.)
A festive, soap bubble-infused extravaganza introduces a happy, such as it is, ending. It is heightened immeasurably by Chris Larner's very clever song about, improbably as it may seem, the joys of being dead.
Should you come here often? Probably not, but it's certainly a fun evening out, even if not unrelentingly so.
Clowning is about getting an audience to suspend belief. Here, with bindings that are severed so they can walk around and gags that have slits in them so they can talk, realism is the last thing on the mind of Foley, McColl