Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 23, 2001

Members of the Exhibitionists, left to right, are
Colin Carmichael, Dale Coleman and John Hough.

Lively show of
youthful high jinks

The Exhibitionists
Performances 8 tonight and Saturday,
The Arts at Mark's Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
Cost: $15 to $18; call 528-0506

Review by Scott Vogel

Watching "The Exhibitionists" is like taking a trip back to your sophomoric past -- those halcyon days of youth when nothing was funnier than underwear wedgies, spit takes and other masterpieces of gross-out humor. Which is not to say that the grown-up you won't be amused by this comedy at The Arts at Mark's Garage, downtown's newest performance space. But be forewarned: the pleasure taken from the proceedings strictly depends on your ability to access your inner (demon) child.

Out of the simplest of situations -- four security guards at an art gallery who'll do anything to alleviate boredom -- a quartet of talented actors from Northern Ireland (collectively known as the Ridiculusmus Theatre Company) have fashioned a comedy that trades heavily on the nervous laughter that accompanies uncomfortable silences. Indeed, the first four minutes of the show consist of nothing more than the guards staring off into space; that, and a few audience giggles, which tend to grow appreciably as the time wears on. But over the next hour the pace picks up considerably, as the gallery is visited by a dowdy old woman, a shoe thief, a singing sculpture ("Underneath the Arches" is its tune of choice) and a two-headed monster, among others. Needless to say, it isn't long before idle minds have created a devil's playground of near-apocalyptic proportions, with comic business generated by everything from squeaky socks to simulated masturbation.

The pratfalls and high jinks become wearisome, but the performers -- who are finally too good for their material -- are compelling chameleons all. Jon Hough gives an inspired performance as a long-suffering mother tortured by her secret life as a gay man (she bears her condition with the equipoise of Greer Garson in "Mrs. Miniver"). As her son (yes, gay too), David Woods is equally entertaining in this wacky variation on the coming-out story.

The fine physical comedian Dale Coleman, whose body is variously dragged across the floor, flung upon a chair and thrown in a trash can, should take out a life insurance policy at his earliest convenience. And Colin Carmichael is hilarious as a creature that can perhaps best be described as the Energizer bunny on ecstasy.

By now, you have probably gathered that "The Exhibitionists" defies easy description. It's a roller coaster experience that I won't spoil. But like all amusement park rides, it ought to come with a warning for heart patients and pregnant women, who are hereby advised to avoid the two rows on either side of the narrow playing space. On the night I attended, an elderly audience member was nearly sent into atrial fib by an unexpected loud bang. Other possible hazards include overexposure to air freshener (which is sprayed liberally during the evening) and potential embarrassment from being dragged onstage.

Still, a good time was had by all, with the exception of one unfortunate patron who was hit by a chair. After several minutes and much vigorous massaging of the shin area, however, the color began to reappear in the woman's face, along with her smile.

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