The Bicycle Men
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 15, 2004
If you need a good laugh (and who doesn’t), don’t miss The Bicycle Men, an engaging one-act play with music, written and performed by four talents who know how to capture an audience without binding and gagging it.
Under Scott Sandoe's direction, a series of vignettes bounce off a loosely-structured plot that involves Steve (Dave Lewman), an American who rides through a small village in France where his bike breaks down. He finds two French bicycle mechanics (Joe Liss and John Rubano), who dupe him for their own amusement. While he waits for his bike to be repaired—anywhere from one day to five months—Steve explores the town, providing the vignettes that allow Lewman, who plays his role with the naivete of a choir boy, and his cohorts to display their considerable wares. And they are considerable.
Performed with perfect condescension and distaste, Liss and Rubano deliver fresh meaning to old stereotypes in their multiple characters. Liss was made to play seedy French characters. What is enticing—and convincing—about his characters is that they are delivered with artistic exactitude. His mime is precise, his expressions are large enough to see in the back rows, and his double takes are unmistakable. In comedy, of course, timing is everything and Liss has it in spades. John Rubano is no second banana. He possesses plenty of stage presence in his various French roles and as an old American pal of Steve’s, Austin Houston.
All of the anecdotes are funny. A puppet show vignette, in contrast to the untrustworthy characters presented in the others, shows Liss and Rubano as limp marionettes that have no more control over their limbs than they do over what they say. The acting appears easy, the chemistry real, the humor nonstop.
Mark Nutter, who also plays three less than noble Frenchmen, shines throughout. He is responsible for the fitting music and clever lyrics delivered by the four actors. All are witty, but one, "L’Homme du Bicyclette," sung by John Rubano, stands out.
With only the French flag as a backdrop and Nutter on stage at the keyboard, the four actors transport the audience as easily as the stereotypical Frenchman seduces his next paramour. There is nothing not to like about this madcap musical.