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10/12/16

Oh, Hello Alex Timbers

Not-So-Spoiler Alert: I love Alex Timbers.

For those of you that know me, this is not exactly a shocking revelation given (1) he's Alex Timbers, c'mon now... and (2) even with a mis-directed scene or a not-so-good show, a common trait of his direction is it's "unapologetic, over-the-top, WTF" gusto that you can't help, but applaud his boldness and his penchant for boundary-breaking (in every intrinsic and external meaning of that superlative). Want to make a show A SHOW or THE SHOW? Call Alex, step out of the way of his magical hair flips and watch him strut his stuff.

To date, he had a hand in two of the most FUCKING HYSTERICAL shows I've ever seen - Peter and the Starcatcher and The Robber Bridegroom. Sure, both shows had a lot of other factors going for it - fantastic set-pieces, the former's stellar book and excellent performances from both ensembles - but all of that does not come together sans the director and Alex Timbers (plus the late-Roger Rees on Peter) brought his A-game on both occasions.

One would think that Timbers directing an actual comedy - not a dramedy, but a full-fledged, start-to-finish comedy - starring actual comedians/comedic actors would be easy-as-pie given his facility with the genre, but unfortunately, I did not find his newest offering, Oh, Hello on Broadway, playing at the Lyceum Theatre, to be outrageously funny. It was just, like, 'haha' funny. In parts. In-between several long eye-rolls.

You see, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll play George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon respectively, two septuagenarians tasked with conjuring up a memoir for the stage, "show-within-a-show" style. The entire affair is a one-act, no-intermission send-up of…well, everything. Amongst the targets are New York and its inhabitants, shows that have once resided at the Lyceum (Steel Magnolias, I am My Own Wife, amongst others), pop and theatre culture, theatrical devices and constructs…the list goes on and on.

Some parts land those elusive belly laughs, namely, a dozen or so one-liners out of the 15,741 scripted attempts. And Mulaney and Kroll clearly have talent to spare, delivering select lines or bits with grand relish that you can't help but play along with their character's antics. And during a segment about half-way through, where George and Gil roast interview a different special guest each night - the night I attended, the special guests were Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation and Master of None, plus his father - Mulaney and Kroll handled the improvisation with ease and generated a funny rapport with the also-game Ansaris. In fact, any moment of improvisation were highlights overall.

If I had to peg why things never come together, the biggest culprit has to be the story…or rather, the not-story as it were. For a show where thousands upon thousands of try-hard one-liners and jokes come up, it is quite disconcerting that no effort was put into crafting something more tangible on the story side. George and Gil come out, they vamp for the audience, they walk us through something something another something something Aziz Ansari and his Pop are here something something…sorry, but I actually don't remember much of what transpired. And while Mulaney's and Kroll's performances are more right then wrong, their performances slipped into monotony after a little while. George and Gil deliver nearly all of their lines with a droll, DGAF disposition - and there is no character arc or development to be found - so how could that not become tedious?

Of course, there is 1 or 2 parts of Oh, Hello on Broadway that are so outrageously Alex Timbers-esque, I was just happy to take in his vision at all, no matter how mitigated it was (especially considered he peaced out of Frozen a few weeks back, a departure that doesn't speak well for that show now). I'm all for more comedy on Broadway because, while the last year was uncommonly stellar drama-wise, the only comedic high-points off the top of my head were the aforementioned Robber Bridegroom, Noises Off and a little bit of Alex Brightman and Jennifer Simard. That, my friends, is a little too low for me - my BFFs recently called me out for only bringing them to seriously, serious dramas with life-ruining feels. Broadway - and ESPECIALLY Alex Timbers - has done and still can do comedy oh so well.


Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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