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BWW Review: John Mulaney and Nick Kroll Provide a Night of Off-Beat Banter and Tuna-Based Pranks in OH, HELLO

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Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have brought their morally ambiguous characters of Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland to the Cherry Lane Theatre for a limited-run play. These caricatured New York-bred characters' over-the-top observations are just inappropriate enough to sustain laughter for 70 minutes of absurdity.

Gil and George are the creations of comedians John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. After meeting at Georgetown University, Nick and John created these characters early on in their comedy careers. Gil Faizon, played by Kroll, and George St. Geegland, played by Mulaney, are two Upper West Siders who are co-playwrights and the starts of "Too Much Tuna." Gil and George brought their prank show to The Kroll Show, were frequent--and most of the time unexpected--guests on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, and they've brought their act to places like the 92nd Street Y. Now, Gil and George are premiering their newest play, "We're Us, You're You, Let's Talk." at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

The show is a play within a play, and it begins with Gil and George giving the audience their background and how they came to be apart of the theatre world. It was smart of Mulaney and Kroll to work Gil and George's background into the show, because without much prior knowledge of these characters beforehand, the show may not make as much sense. George talks about his unsuccessful novels, including "Prostate Cancer As a Metaphor for Israel," to his 12-year teaching career at SUNY Yonkers. On the other hand, Gil Faizon tells the audience about his career as a Tony Award viewing actor, his almost-job as the voice of CBS, and his current job as a stand-in for creamed foods.

Gil and George then give some insight into the theatre world and how they think that there are many devices used in plays-like the "one-sided phone call," or the use of dramatic lighting that dims after a seemingly uninteresting sentence-and they talk about various versions of plays they've done in the past, including their take on "Waiting for Godot," where Godot shows up three minutes in. They accurately point out a lot of the silly things that can go into stage acting that seem weird when scrutinized. This part of the show sheds a light on Mulaney and Kroll's knowledge of theatre and their ability to accurately poke fun at a beloved institution while making sure it doesn't come across as judgmental.

Gil and George then introduce the play they are about to star in: "We're Us, You're You, Let's Talk." Gil plays Gil Stone and George plays George Reddington. The play is essentially a mirror of their own selves, where Stone and Reddington deal with being unable to afford their no longer rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West-Side. After an unsuccessful attempt of going on Shark Tank to get money for their apartment, they decide to have one last "good time" in New York the only way they know how: pranking people. Every night of the show, Gil and George prank a famous friend of theirs--Aidy Bryant was the lucky recipient of a big pile of tuna fish that night. This part of the play is one of the funniest, because their improvisational skills are impeccable. When the guest comes on the stage and talks with Gil and George, they have a conversation that is in the moment and incredibly hilarious. Little glimpses of Kroll and Mulaney come out as they talk to their celebrity guest, especially since they're friends with the people they invite up. It's always fun to see the jokes and quips that can make them break character, even for a moment. (like when Geroge calls Aidy a featured player on Saturday Night Live, when she has been main cast for three years). These guys are professionals, but they aren't immune to a slip, which makes the comedy even more authentic.

The pair's chemistry is what makes the show. These two men are comedic forces in their own right, but together they create a performance that is incomparable, because their combined talent and intellect creates a type of comedy that has many levels: at the surface they are a pair of racist old men living in New York, but the more they speak, Gil and George are used by Kroll and Mulaney to comment on society and other silly things through a different vehicle. Because Gil and George have no filter, Kroll and Mulaney can have them say things that are normally inappropriate, but that work in this circumstance, and because we know that Kroll and Mulaney don't mean the racist or ignorant things they say, deeper meaning can be found in the jokes.

Their chemistry allows them to build on each other's jokes, raising the comedy to levels not typically seen in this type of two-person act. While this back-and-forth improvement on jokes is usually subtle, audience members get a sense that the show has more depth than the snappy one-liners it's rightfully known for. A great example of the performance's style is how every spare moment is utilized for comedy -- like when the spotlight was on Gil, and George dances behind him in the darkness, moving his hips in a sassy walking motion.

In the show, George is the dominant one who out of fear of abandonment, controls Gil, but their love for each other is so strong Gil overlooks it. Minus the controlling nature, Mulaney and Kroll's relationship seems just as strong as their counterparts, and it can be seen in those moments where they break character. At one point in the show, George says a line to Gil where he goes cross-eyed, Gil breaks to laugh at the unexpected moment, while addressing to the audience the unseen cause of his laughter. Mulaney and Kroll have such strong chemistry, that even those brief breaks in character feel authentic and true to the scene.

After a surreal ballet, a visit to Ed Koch's grave, and many Steely Dan references, the "play" portion of the show ends. Gil and George conclude the night with a press conference, where members of the audience can yell out questions. This is the perfect way for Mulaney and Kroll to display their comedic timing, intelligence, and ability to turn out witty responses in character. When an audience member doesn't stop yelling out bad questions, Gil takes him down brilliantly, to which George points out how Gil will rip you to pieces. The men are also asked who they'll vote for in the 2016 elections, prompting them to talk about their old friend, "Bernard," who George is shocked is running for president and not the president of the "dandruff on blazers society."

Oh, Hello was incredibly smart and "laugh until your stomach hurts" funny. The entire show flowed incredibly well and felt the best kind of unrehearsed; all of the pre-prepared jokes came off as brand new and all of the little "unplanned moments," like issues with their lighting guy or Gil's needing to use the bathroom at the climax of the show, worked perfectly with the tone of the show and was very believable. Kroll and Mulaney created a play-within-a-play that was incredibly well done and a perfect medium for these characters on stage. They created a 70-minute theatre experience that will leave audience members laughing at their jokes for the rest of the night.

Photo Credit: Christian Frarey

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