WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WITNESS?
What started as a gaffe–Arie Stern sitting lonesome on the stage with his partner in absentia–soon spun into a nearly metaphysical narrative which exploded the improviser/audience contract in the best and most unexpected ways possible. All while keeping a half dozen characters so stable and grounded that I felt like I was in the middle of season six of The Two Gentlemen Show.
“I’m sure he’s just fucking with me, so I’ll get started without him,”Arie says confidently.
Soon enough, an anonymous audience member in the form of second gentleman Greg Hernandez hits a beat seamlessly with comments about the attractiveness of Arie’s on-stage dinner companion (up to this point, of course, invisible). We are then treated to tales of jealousy, pirates walking the plank, and meetings with Jane Austen’s literary agent until members of the audience (Two Gentlemen, themselves) start commenting rudely about how offensive and sexist the show is. They are challenged by the performers on the stage (Two Gentlemen) to do THEIR OWN improv show.
Did you ever see improv so impossibly funny, with a chemistry simultaneously stable yet reactive… That you’re certain it must be rehearsed?
I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t.
I managed to get a few words from them after the show. I asked Hernandez–somewhat speechlessly–what’s their “form” or “style”. He replied, with some obviousness, “There is none.”
“The only thing we try to do every time we perform is to make sure we play with what improv is capable of.”
If there’s one thing that settles my suspicion that Two Gentlemen may be a scam… That these guys may simply be a traveling pair of avant garde sketch comedy geniuses, it’s in the chemistry.
“What are your favorite things about Jane Austen?” Greg’s character asks Arie’s character on stage, the first of three subtle “Does my partner know anything about literature?” quizzes exchanged subtextually during the scene–as if the two dudes are shooting the shit in a dorm room while rendering hilarious scenes for an improv festival in real-time.
“I don’t know what I would have done if he HAD known anything about Jane Austen,” admits Greg after the show, “Cuz I don’t know anything about Jane Austen either!”.
(Spoiler Alert: Their show contains NO Jane Austen spoilers.)
I have binding family obligations, but if you’re even considering going out tomorrow night, start your evening off with an improv set from a couple of guys addicted to risks, addicted to character-commitment, addicted to exploring the theater space, and compelled against all reasoning-with to supply you with hilarious intellectual and emotional adventures at any cost.
It’s unlikely that their set will be anywhere near as funny as it was last night–how could it possibly be? Don’t worry about it, just scoop up your tickets quick! Philly improv fans should be excited that Boston has produced a male answer to The Amie and Kristin Show.