nytheatre.com review by Jeff Lewonczyk
I never dreamed it would be possible to create a beautiful, warm, funny
show about two men dying of hypothermia at the North Pole, but darned if
the comedy duo of Harrington & Kauffman hasn't done it.
August 15, 2003
Their peculiar variation on the age-old template of the two-man comedy team is as bracing and indelible as the Arctic wind in which they perish. Richard Harrington's Gustave—whom we will hesitantly designate the "straight man"—is a stiff, soft-spoken Belgian cabaret singer who narrates the proceedings in a thickly accented deadpan. His partner is Chris Kauffman's Nhar, a sad-faced, rubber-limbed jack-of-all-trades whose voice is so hoarse he might as well be mute.
Together, they have spanned the northerly latitudes in order to follow Gustave's childish dream (or, as he says it, "shaldash drim") to meet the Yeti. Gustave reveals early on that due to the intense cold he and Nhar are drifting through the final, hallucinatory stages of their lives, and requests that the audience help them stay alive until the end of the show by pelting them with snowballs (provided upon entrance to the Red Room) whenever they get sleepy.
Surprise is the linchpin of comedy, so it would be rude to reveal too many details about their journey. However, audiences can expect: an illustrated lecture on the history of life on earth; several foolish songs, on such subjects as swimming in fjords, accompanied by accordion and zither; world-class silly dancing (choreographed by Abby Bender); an invisible Peugeot; and a number of scene-stealing toys. It is these toys that provide a nifty metaphor for the show: defiantly non-utilitarian, their very frivolity provides deep joy.
Directed with an eye for articulate detail by Patricia Buckley, Nharcolepsy delivers more laughs than a rubber igloo (whatever that means). And just as importantly, the show bears itself with grace, perhaps the most important element of successful nonsense. In a festival full of comedians grabbing attention any way they can, Harrington & Kauffman's nimble harmony is a reminder of how deep simplicity can be.