Oh Hello, On Broadway
by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Nick Kroll (Gil Faizon) and John Mulaney (George St. Geegland)
(photo Joan Marcus)
Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) and George St. Geegland (John Mulaney), two messy golden-agers from New York's Upper West Side, could be today's Felix and Oscar, more crotchety and disheveled than golden, appearing as stars in Oh, Hello, a disorganized, screwy Broadway production. Describing themselves, widower George (whose three deceased wives all died mysteriously the same way on the same staircase), admits, "I’m the type of guy you would catch at a party going through the coats." About himself, Gil puts it bluntly, "You know when you get to the bottom of a tub of hummus and you’ve gotta use your fingies to scoop it? That’s us."
As unappetizing as these two diner aficionados are, and as wacky as Oh, Hello is, the laughs are generous, albeit with a squirmy quality with barely a hint of a theme. The ill-matched and sloppy fitting corduroys and shirts designed by Emily Rebholz are perfect for the two. Since George fashions himself a playwright, he has written a play for himself and floundering actor Gil. The two need to make enough money to pay the monthly fee on their rent-controlled apartment, which has increased from $75 to $2500. While their apartment has five bedrooms and a working fireplace, this inequity makes Gil complain, "We have a God-given right to pay the same rent every year regardless of inflation or property value!”
Gil and George, roommates for over 40 years, bat complaints and maladroit observations back and forth on topics that range from their idol, Alan Alda, Steely Dan at the Beacon Theater, and the over-stuffed tuna salad sandwiches at the diner. Tuna fish takes on various forms as Gil and George reminisce about their neighborhood and themselves. There is a tuna sandwich puppet in Basil Twist's nightmare dance sequence and tuna again appears as part of the nightly "special cameo" segment. The surprise guest this evening was newscaster, Willie Geist, whom Gil and George treat to the diner's special tuna sandwich and gray coffee. Kroll and Mulaney had developed this skit as part of their public access TV show, Too Much Tuna.
They manage to get themselves and their play booked at the “famously haunted” Lyceum Theatre, where Scott Pask designed a stage made up of discarded props from previous plays. There is possibly a curtain from the original production of Fiddler on the Roof, a trap door from The Diary of Anne Frank, hair dryers from Steel Magnolias and a "No Exit" sign from Sartre's play, No Exit (despite the fact that the sign is a fire hazard). The actors give the audience ground rules: Go ahead and use your cell phones, bring food and eat it freely, and open any crinkly-wrapped candies as slowly and noisily as you can.
OK, you get the point of all this, not that there is really any point. For 30-something Kroll and Mulaney, Comedy Central skit favorites, Oh, Hello is an homage (or as they say, "home page") to the magic of Broadway. There are those well-worn shticks, like the one-sided phone conversation, the ill-timed ring and that familiar cough into a handkerchief, signaling impending death. It is also a salute to the never-ending variety of New York characters and their viewpoints of the city over the decades.
Reminiscent of an old radio show, George ends the show thoughtfully, ”New York City. A million people... and a million stories. And that’s not even counting the commuters." Gil adds, "Waiter, I’ll have... two more root beers please."
Oh, Hello had a brief but successful run at the Cherry Lane Theater last year, also directed by Alex Timbers. Now on Broadway, this free-wheeling look at our city's unique characters, still over-the-top, yet lovable in a repulsive, hands-off kind of way.
This review also appears in TotalTheater.com
149 W 45th St., NYC
Previewed: Sept. 23, 2016. Opening: Oct. 10, 2016 Closing: Jan. 22, 2016
Written by: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney
Directed by: Alex Timbers
Running time: 90 minutes.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors.