By Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles; Directed by David MacMurray Smith
Off Broadway, Physical Comedy
Runs through 10.14.18
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
by Ran Xia on 9.24.18
Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles in James & Jamesy In The Dark. Photo courtesy of James & Jamesy.
BOTTOM LINE: James & Jamesy answer some profound existential questions in the silliest, most delightful way possible—in the dark, waiting for "it" to arrive.
Imagine Waiting for Godot: the two clownish characters linger expectantly, waiting for something, anything...
Now imagine Pixar: the delightful animated lamp before the film, enthusiastically hopping on and turning its “face” towards the audience, as though something is about to happen.
Blend the two concepts, and you’ll have James & Jamesy In the Dark. Within the first seconds you understand why “Pixar meets Godot” summarizes the piece perfectly: the two clownish characters (each with a lampshade on their head) enter with a simple chair, put them down, and call out to an unknowable somebody: ready!
They are waiting for “it” to come. But what is “it” exactly? What are they expecting will happen, exactly? You spend the 75-minute show figuring it out, as the two characters figure out their own philosophies, and most importantly, play with imagination.
Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles’ James & Jamesy is the sort of theatre that offers its audience a transformative experience in the simplest yet the most effective ways. The pair of seasoned physical comedians creates a wildly imaginative world out of nothing—well, when I say nothing, there are the chairs, and their custom-made, illuminating costumes that are the sole light sources. The lampshades blossom forward, so when the two lower their heads, they look exactly like a pair of Pixar lamps in humanoid form. However, this absolutely delightful silliness also carries the weight of some cerebral profundity, upon close examination.
The show is, in a way, a process of creation via discovery. When the two first collide—or, when they find each other with their own lights—the loneliness that defines one disappears as he illuminates another. “Are you still here?” asks one. “As far as I can see,” answers the other. A simple, almost childish correspondence is suddenly an existential debate: do we only exist when visible to someone else? Later, the two discover, beyond their wildest dreams, something magical: their own backside. “There is a part of me I cannot see” aays one. “You see more of me than I do,” concurs the other.
The pair gradually discover the tragic truth—they are doomed to stay on this constant quest of creating “the next stage” (the “it” they’ve been waiting for) without ever being able to get there. Whatever is “next” will be perpetually just beyond reach, for it is always right now, until it’s the past, and we’re still soldiering on for what’s yet to come.
Ultimately, In The Dark is a discovery of how the “now” creates a “we,” as James and Jamesy expand their stage to include the audience into their story. “Now brings us together!” they exclaim in ecstasy. It’s a simple truth that we sometimes forget, or perhaps ignore, but in their innocent, hilarious ways, James and Jamesy illuminate far more than what’s physically possible.
(James & Jamesy In The Dark plays at Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through October 14, 2018. The running time is 75 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 7; Saturdays and Sundays at 3 and 7. Tickets are $39 and are available at sohoplayhouse.com or by calling 212-691-1555. For more information visit jamesandjamesy.com.)
James & Jamesy In The Dark is written and performed by Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles. Directed by David MacMurray Smith. Costume Design by Alastair Knowles and Keith Arbuthnot. Sound Design by Aaron Malkin.