Review: ‘Speedmouse: The Worst of the Umbilical Brothers’

There is a limit to the amount of hilarity you can get out of two actors and a microphone. Or at least there would seem to be, a generalization disproved by Dave (who plays Dave) and Shane (who plays Shane), better known as the Umbilical Brothers.

There is a limit to the amount of hilarity you can get out of two actors and a microphone. Or at least there would seem to be, a generalization disproved by Dave (who plays Dave) and Shane (who plays Shane), better known as the Umbilical Brothers.

“Speedmouse” is mime with sound, more or less. While it’s against the rules for mimes to talk, Dave and Shane are so very subversive that they chatter away throughout the 70-minute show. What’s more, they produce an unending array of sound effects (as exemplified by the title of their 1999 New York engagement, “Thwak”).

The non-filial pair merged (in a non-umbilical sense) 15 years ago in Sydney, almost as an antidote to mime. “Standup slapstick” is one way they describe what they do, and that’s as good an explanation as any.

They are assisted by a stage manager named Tina, who speaks in basso profundo and doesn’t get along with Shane; and a stagehand called “Roadie,” who lifts all those invisible props and scenery and doesn’t get along with Dave. Roadie wears a bright red clown suit with bright yellow buttons and bright orange slip-ons; he also has an eerie mask, which is at a climactic moment removed to reveal — well, a surprise.

What we get, among other things, is a question-from-the-audience section, with the questions coming solely from Dave (“Are there any parmesan cheese lovers here?”); an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, with audience participation; a ping-pong match off Dave’s eye; and a 2-year-old drafted from the audience, who does familiar mime tricks (“pulling the rope”), plays with balloons and is hoisted into the flyspace until the balloon is thwacked.

Shane even goes so far as to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a damaged housefly, which proves successful until someone says “step on it” and he does. There’s also a battle between stuffed animals that turns fatal.

The breezy, endlessly clever “Speedmouse” is subtitled “The Worst of the Umbilical Brothers”; as the actors explain, they assembled the proceedings out of the smelliest bits possible.

At one point, one brother admonishes the other. “Take this seriously, this is comedy. And if you don’t understand comedy, go join Cirque du Soleil.”

Speedmouse: The Worst of the Umbilical Brothers

New Victory Theater; 499 capacity; $35 top

Production

A New 42nd Street presentation of a play in one act written and directed by David Collins and Shane Dundas. Executive producer, Artie Laing.

Creative

Lighting and sound, Michael Walker. Opened Nov. 10, 2006. Reviewed Nov. 16. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN.

Cast

With: David Collins, Shane Dundas.

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