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Sheer Energy

Pacific Northwest duo takes chances with physical comedy reminiscent of silent film.

As part of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater’s “Best Comedy in the Universe” festival these two weeks, an unusual duo from Washington State called “The Cody Rivers Show” appeared November 13, presenting sketches that mixed physical comedy both in silent form and verbalized to varying degrees of success.

The opening piece by the duo, Mike Mathieu and Andrew Connor, as a pair of Vikings dancing a highly choreographed routine catches on out of their sheer energy. Of course this is set to music, but really qualifies as silent comedy because the duo doesn’t speak at all here.

Another piece, which would be spoiled by revealing too many details, begins with the expectation of some sort of verbal banter, but then goes in a direction that is much more physical comedy, also scored because of its novel use of certain basic old physical comedy chestnuts.

In another case, speech actually gets this duo into trouble -- dressed in florescent outfits, one bearing a “?” and another a “!”, they rapidly spout a jibberish language, and that’s the entire content of the sketch. Here the sheer energy of the duo isn’t enough to put the comedic conceit over the top.

Strangely enough, the duo’s best piece -- and the one that got the most reaction from this New York audience -- is its most verbal, beginning with a premise very much like something John Hodgman would think of. They start talking about the 10 types of people in the world -- all of which are very unlikely categories indeed -- and escalate into past history, when there were way more than 10 and how that got whittled down.

Although the Cody Rivers Show is adventurous and takes a lot of chances with inventive material, it would be nice to see them make some of their pieces a little more accessible for any audience, perhaps by putting themselves in the audiences’ shoes and retooling pieces like the “?” and “!” characters. Even their more accessible sketches do take a few extra moments to get into.




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