nytheatre.com review by Riley MacLeod
August 15, 2004
Making assumptions based on the show’s tag line (“Alarm. Wash. Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.”) I expected Happy Mundanes to be dark. How could a show about the deadly routines of urban living not be full of despair and tortured contact improv? I settled into my seat ready to be shown a reason why it’s good to be unemployed.
Much to my surprise, my expectations were met with a show of a very different sort. The show’s actors-slash-creators, Justin Tyler and Aaron Wilton, present fifty minutes of classic physical comedy as they careen through waking, washing, working, and eating. Their entire performance is silent, beautifully complemented by original music by Adam Robb, who integrates his laid-back guitar seamlessly into the actors’ performances. The sparse set and lighting design, overseen by stage manager Aurelia Fisher, provide the bare bones this show needs to truly bring out the skills of its performers.
Tyler and Wilton have an excellent, unstated chemistry between them. They communicate superbly with small facial expressions and gestures. In one scene, their contact causes a light bulb to work, and their communication and performance style works in much the same way. Their touch is electric, both together and with the audience. They draw you into their world—sort of like your world, if it was ghost-written by the Marx Brothers—and their exploration spreads out into all the mundane facets of human existence. I mean, who hasn’t suspected their boss was a robot or had their mashed potatoes shriek at them? Tyler and Wilton make the unbelievable expected and turn the usual on its head.
Happy Mundanes never comes to any conclusions about how to make your work day less boring or “sums it all up.” In a loop of scenes of the characters rising, the show presents its share of the doldrums and uneasiness of doing the same thing time and again. But by looking at day-to-day living in a new way, this show presents the possibilities for change, excitement, and humor with vitality and a degree of optimism. At the very least, if I ever sit at a desk again, this show will give me something to chuckle about as I do.