Physical comedians of a type that American audiences likely will find hopelessly retrograde, the Spanish trio Tricicle makes its long-in-coming Stateside debut with "Three-for-All," a 90-minute stretch of mostly wordless sketch comedy too short on laughs to compensate for the dated variety-show-filler approach.

Physical comedians of a type that American audiences likely will find hopelessly retrograde, the Spanish trio Tricicle makes its long-in-coming Stateside debut with “Three-for-All,” a 90-minute stretch of mostly wordless sketch comedy too short on laughs to compensate for the dated variety-show-filler approach.

Although the trio credits Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers as inspirations, Tricicle (Joan Gracia, Paco Mir and Carles Sans, making their Off Broadway bows 18 years after forming the group) displays neither the pathos of the former nor wit of the latter. Audiences expecting a Barcelonan Blue Man Group probably wouldn’t last to the unnecessary intermission.

Determinedly old-fashioned in style and material, “Three-for-All” follows a day or two in the lives of three nameless roommates as they do battle with everyday hazards (remote controls, bathroom lines, hard-to-open compact discs). One of the characters (played by Mir) is a blocked author, allowing Tricicle the familiar device of enacting the narrated, Sam Spadelike stories as they’re being written and rewritten.

Another roommate is a percussionist (Sans) who plays loudly on any number of surfaces (though Stomp this ain’t), and the third is a man (Gracia) who for no discernible reason dresses in a Roman centurion costume made of newspaper. In one skit the centurion and a clown pose for tipsin a New York subway, a routine devoid both of laughs and Gotham authenticity.

Despite their limber, athletic prowess (put to tireless use on the many-doored apartment set), the performers often seem like improv comedians struggling for something funny. Surprise is a rarity: Even as ice cubes or drunken flies (witlessly costumed by Pepi Aubia), the performers rely on annoying noises and oft-repeated sight gags. A mimed tennis match, roller-coaster ride and Tour de France bicycle race offer more comic promise than Tricicle delivers.

Three-for-All

Production

NEW YORK A Steven Baruch, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Marc Routh presentation, with Alan J. Schuster and Mitchell Maxwell, of a performance in two acts created and performed by Tricicle (Joan Gracia, Paco Mir, Carles Sans).

Crew

Set, Dino Ibanez, Joan Jorba; costumes, Pepi Aubia; lighting, Jorba, Joan Sales; music, Josep Bardagi, Josep Pons; associate producer, Alvaro Sarmiento. Opened Oct. 13, 1997, at the Union Square Theater. Reviewed Oct. 12; 499 seats; $ 45 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.
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