nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
August 12, 2006
I'd like to preface this review by reminding the reader that nytheatre.com's reviewers for the Fringe are not assigned the shows we see; we get to pick them ourselves. I choose my shows based on title, and when that does not suffice or appeal, I go for premise. While my hopes are high, my expectations usually aren't. Hence, I approached my viewing of Olsen Terror, a quasi-one-man-show/musical comedy hybrid about a large, middle-aged man's Kafka-esque transformation into the Olsen Twins, with a note of cautious optimism.
After all, Chris Wells, the writer and main character is well-established in the theatre and music scenes. Additionally, I noted upon entering the beloved downtown Flea Theater, his co-conspirator and guitarist, Jeremy Bass is really cute. But whether or not you think he's cute, this man can play guitar. And play guitar he does, matching Chris Wells's enthusiasm, acerbic wit and clever lyrics, note for powder-dusted note.
To be honest, I don't know where to begin describing this show, and I mean that in the best way possible, and I don't want to say too much—it would give away all the little moments Wells and Bass have clearly worked so hard on in order to charm the pants off their audiences. I wondered at one point how hard it must have been not only to keep a straight face while endlessly rehearsing the songs and timing the comedic notes for just the right effect, but to do so with no audience present given the sizeable role the audience plays in The Man's descent into madness.
If you don't like interactive entertainment though don't worry—little is asked of the audience except:
- their belief that The Man (Chris' character) is indeed turning into the Olsen Twins;
- their assistance in saving him from such a fate or their approval in allowing him to do so in order for him to be truly happy; and
- if they want a donut.
Yeah, donuts are served. And they looked pretty gooey too. There was also the promise of a Venti Frappuccino that never materialized, but I am willing to let that slide since I spent the better part of my hour fifteen with The Man and his cute guitar player laughing my butt off and marveling at their comic timing.
To sum up, this X-File of a show is fun and entertaining, even if you don't quite know what to make of it. Fringe shows can go either way, but this one should be on your list, and not just because of the title.