A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to ...


The Umbilical Brothers present a highly entertaining if overlong evening of physical comedy and man-made sound environments.

By New York City
David Collins and Shane Dundas
(Courtesy CAMI Spectrum)
David Collins and Shane Dundas
(Courtesy CAMI Spectrum)
Alien dinosaurs, Olympic sports, and underwater adventures are just a few of the elements that make up the Umbilical Brothers' new show, Speedmouse, now at the Joyce Theater. While some of the gags are stretched out a little too long, this 90-minute production is still highly entertaining.

The Umbilical Brothers consist of David Collins and Shane Dundas, whose comic timing and physical rapport with one another are finely tuned. Collins handles the majority of the show's physical comedy, while Dundas is responsible for the bulk of the fabulous man-made sound environments, which he creates using a microphone and his own vocal dexterity. However, their duties are not so clearly divided, as both performers take their shot at the other's specialty and work so well together that you sometimes forget who's doing what.

The duo is joined onstage by the mostly silent Roadie (identified only as "Roadie" in the program), dressed as a rather disturbing-looking clown. Roadie's presence becomes a running gag throughout the performance, which is made up of loosely connected sketches that showcase the Umbilical Brothers' comic talents. While there's no set to speak of, lighting designer Josh Monroe does an excellent job in helping to create the various environments called for within the show.

Some of the Brothers' routines are more successful than others. One of the highlights is a series of short scenes that follow Collins as he makes his way through a number of hostile environments. There's also a surreal yet fascinating episode in which the audience "watches" an invisible child perform traditional mime acts. On the downside, there's an extended sequence devoted to the middle finger that quickly grows tiresome, as do a few of the sports that Collins mimes his way through -- particularly the javelin throw.

Still, the duller sequences are spread out over the course of the performance, and there's enough quality material to make the evening worthwhile. After the actors take their bows, there's also an absolutely delightful, tightly paced encore (with puppets!) that ends the evening on a fun note.

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