AISLE SAY Twin Cities


Written by Bill Arnold, Michael Pearce Donley, and Bob Stromberg
Directed by William Partlan
Staring Danny Jacobs, Keith Reay, and Rory Johnston
Music Box Theatre / 1407 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 612.874.1100

Reviewed by Ellen Dworsky and Roxanne Sadovsky

As usual, Rox fell for "popular demand" and chose the play. ("Elle, I really, really, really want to see'Triple Espresso'. Can we go? Pleeeease?") Since I had seen it before (and laughed so hard my stomach hurt) I said yes. I'd love it the second time around, right? Well, not as much. Although Danny Jacobs (who played Hugh Butternut) was almost as good as the original Butternut, Michael Pearce Donley. Keith Reay (Bobby Bean) and Rory Johnston (Buzz Maxwell) were not as funny as the other two original cast members Bob Stromberg and Bill Arnold. And Rox seemed a little bored. "Want some kucha bread? Want a lolly?" She handed me a lime lollipop--my least favorite flavor--from the bris (circumcision ceremony) she had been to a few days before--is it just me, or does giving out suckers out while your baby is getting the foreskin of his penis trimmed seem a little odd? And stuck on the clear plastic was a little round sticker that announced "Gerry Henry, 6-6-03, 8 lbs, 4 oz." Even had a picture of the little tyke: full head of hair, head lolling to one side, and a grimace on his little face.

Rox: Wow, Elle, it's not like you to get so off-topic in the first paragraph. Maybe you were the one who was bored? As for me, I just thought it was kind of dated.

Elle: You always think that. What was dated about it?

Rox: Oh, boy. It's hard to explain. For me, "dated" is often just a feeling, like a shade of copper that glosses over the experience. While the play was fun, and at times very funny, it somehow lacks spontaneity. It was sort of like watching a rerun of Reality TV. And I felt like some of the sketches were purchased at The May Company in 1976.

Elle: Rox, what the hell does "a shade of copper that glosses over the experience mean? Anyway, nothing could be as dated as "Cats." It's been a year and a half and I still haven't forgiven you for dragging me to that awful spectacle. And I'm not sure I agree. I mean, The play does flash back to the '70s so...why The May Company? Why not Woolworth's? Anyway, the show relies on physical comedy and these three actors just weren't as funny as the original guys. Not that I remembered anything about the play till tonight.

Rox: I thought you said you'd seen it before.

Elle: Yeah, but that was before we were reviewing theater, so I had no reason to remember anything other than I loved it.

Rox: Are you sure painkillers haven't ruined your memory? Or maybe it's the crib incident when you were a baby.

Elle: The crib incident has nothing to do with it. You're already getting off track. Talk about the play.

Rox: It does relate. You can no longer experience the joy of dancing because your parents turned your crib upside down--like a little prison--so you couldn't climb out and dance at five in the morning.

Elle: Jesus, Rox. There wasn't even that much dancing in the play. Lot's of singing though. I did like that.

Rox: Then why didn't you sing "Home on the Range" when Bobby Bean told the audience to sing

Elle: I didn't hear you singing either.

Rox: I didn't know the words.

Elle: How did you make it to adulthood without learning that song?

Rox: I sang and made the hand motions during the "Freak Out" song. You didn't. Don't tell me you were also singing during the crib incident....

Elle: It's not about me. It's about the play. Do you want to give the plot summary?

Rox: Do I have to?

Elle: It's your turn.

Rox: The plot was part of the problem. I didn't need the historical context.

Elle: Maybe you'd like to give the readers a little context? The summary, Rox. I need to get back to writing about corn.

Rox: Corn? I thought you wrote about pork for a living.

Elle: That was months ago. I've since moved on to Seed Piracy and corn.

Rox: What's Seed Piracy?

Elle: Pirating patented, genetically engineered seed.

Rox: Will that work better than Ritalin for my ADD?

Elle: Do you think ADD is contagious? I think I might have caught it from you. Give the plot summary, Rox.

Rox: Oh, alright: So, 3 guys get together for a reunion and reminisce about their washed up lounge act in New York.

Elle: Not New York. Not a lounge act. They used to play in a...I don't remember what and where. They were on the Dating Game, the Mike Douglas show, Cable Zaire. Maybe you're right about the historical context. But on the other hand, the play had to have some kind of framework.

Rox: But with all the time they spend going back and forth between then and now, it gets sort of confusing. That's the part that isn't necessary. Since the goal is to showcase their real-life combined talents as writer, magician, and musician, the story tries too hard to bring that out. It's already there. I would have preferred the whole thing take place in the present with some updated bits. If nothing else, they could have remised about the nineties. I mean the seventies are just so passé. Let's see, some jokes about Y2K, or Friends. Or Beverly Hills 90210. The seventies were forever ago; they're so forever ago that they are back in style. But I missed half of the decadal references anyway.

Elle: Decadal? And what references are you talking about.

Rox: Weren't you listening? I said I missed the references.

Elle: Then how do you know there even were any references?

Rox It had that seventies aura of referral. You know: shimmy, shimmy, glimmer shimmy... Slow motion, strobe lights, smoke...

Elle: But how could you not love that slo-mo "Chariots of Fire" dream sequence? I thought I was going to wet my pants, I laughed so hard. Let me go back to what you said about showcasing their real-life talents. So, this show is playing at various points around the country simultaneously, and obviously the "originals" can only be in one place. You need a few sets of actors to "operate the other franchises." I mean, imagine if we hired 2 women to be "The 2-Jew Review." The chemistry might not be there, the rhythm might be off... How could anyone "be" us better than the original us?

Rox: I agree, but this is a performance, even though it might have come out of the original actor's experiences. If people could only play themselves, what would happen to TV, the movies, plays, the WORLD! And I liked the clean humor. It didn't offend anyone. That is my favorite kind of humor, after all. Want to hear my favorite pun?

Elle: No, Rox. There was plenty of that slapstick type of thing in the play, thank you very much.

Rox: But still, it could've been clean in a more updated way. Even corny gets cheesy.

Elle: You don't say.

Rox: All right, Elle. You tell me why you liked it so much the first time then.

Elle: Like I said before, I wasn't looking for things to review the first time. I just took it for what it was--funny and fun.

Rox: Well, what does that say about your life? That you're only present when you are called upon to be critical? Sheesh.

Elle: Don't analyze me, Rox.

Rox: How's therapy going, by the way?

Elle: No more talk of your therapy sessions, my therapy sessions, or anyone's parents. And do not--I mean it--do not bring your lover into this review.

Rox: Then let's talk about yours. I'm glad I finally got to see him--even if it was from the car window.

Elle: You're making me sound like a stalker. Anyway, it was your idea to drive by his house. The play, Rox. For God's sake, talk about the play.

Rox: Therapy certainly hasn't improved your disposition. All right: Let me tell you what I liked. I liked that piano guy (Danny Jacobs). He was the most natural, or the least "dated." When he opened the show by cheesing around with the audience and singing songs I like to sing at Nye's, I was into it. I thought the whole thing was going to be sort of like that-a cabaret-but when they brought in the plot, it got too complicated to just enjoy it for what it was. I kept trying to sort out what that Nabookoo guy had to do with anything. Who was he?

Elle: His name was Makoko. He owns the fictional Triple Espresso coffee bar where the piano guy plays. And he got them the gig on Cable Zaire--that was sort of an amusing sketch.

Rox: That's just what I mean. That sketch not very politically correct.

Elle: Rox, you hate political correctness.

Rox: But I am...uh..."culturally sensitive." Making fun of other cultures isn't funny, which is another thing that made it dated.

Elle:Was it poking fun at the customs of Zaire? Do you even know what their customs are?

Rox: I know what they aren't. I thought the play was funny, but just for the sake of being funny. I wasn't invested in the story. I didn't care that much about the characters. Is that awful? Maybe it's because I don't watch television.

Elle: But you were addicted to TV when you were a kid. And this is an old argument with us. You always want "deep meaning" even when the play is supposed to be funny; I don't.

Rox: Bottom line it for the reader, Elle.

Elle: Okay. The audience loved it; I'm always shocked when the stoic Minnesotans get into "audience participation" productions: the audience sang along, got up on stage when called to, made silly hand motions... If I hadn't seen "the originals" first (who do still perform), I'd probably have only good things to say. The play has been running for seven years--and I think in the 6 years I've been here, it's been playing at the Music Box Theatre pretty much the whole time, so I guess nobody else has objected if they didn't get "the originals." Go see it. You can even take the kids.

Return to Home Page