Solo: A Two-Person Show
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 21, 2007
Where would funny be without not funny? Like light without shade, it would just become a dull wash of monotonous winks and nudges. Matt Chapman and Josh Matthews are well aware of this in their new show, Solo, and so they toss in an element of profound loss and it works perfectly as the shade to their hilarious beam of light.
The show opens with death and then springs into the Put-Your-Short-Pants-On Dance. This pattern is repeated throughout the show as two brothers unveil bits of their tragic story in between childlike games built of pure, unadulterated imagination. We are taken into the jungle where toasted bagels are our only protection from the stirs of dangerous beasts. We go to a mountaintop where gangs of dreaded mountain goats bleat threats right in your face. The brothers also relive memories of their lives together and of their last moment together. Sometimes they fight and sometimes they play but they always manage to jab you in the ribs with their tale.
I wasn't expecting much of a story. I figured I'd laugh here and there at some awkward situations, but Chapman and Matthews tell a great story. The comedy moves really fast but they slow down and reflect and allow the story to simmer. Both are very agile making the highly physical comedy look easy and natural even when they get absurdly acrobatic. This is one the finest comedy duets I've seen. Their chemistry is as if they're brothers in real life playing off each other with consistent undertones of a lifetime spent together. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much in one evening.
They keep it simple. There's no set except a chair and suitcase filled with props. Chapman does a great job animating a little devil puppet in one game that they play. He also twists and molds his face into some of the funniest reactions. Matthews's timing is impeccable. He launches into every scene with exceptional vigor and conviction. Their dances and acrobatics are hilarious and very well-choreographed. The show is a part of a clown theatre festival but I'm not sure if what they do is clowning. It's physical theatre with a hysterical, tragic, and often absurd story. To me, the story within it seems to transcend clowning. The lighting looks great in the small black box at the Brick and the music, courtesy of David Crabb, fits perfectly with every mood swing.
I am not entirely sure about the significance of the title of the show, Solo. They may call it that because ultimately one of them ends up alone or possibly because it was only supposed to be one brother the whole time. The brothers' relationship is supported by their game playing. They imply what it might be like if the games stopped but they never reveal what it would really be like if they no longer had the games. We never see one of them alone on stage. They contrast comedy and tragedy throughout, but they never really contrast together and alone.
I had a great time at this show. The Brick has hosted another great festival. I enjoyed all the shows I saw in this year's New York Clown Theatre Festival. You only have two more chances to check this one out so I'd get there early. If you have to stand in line don't worry about it, Solo, is worth every minute of your time.