One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on Broadway totally surprised me with its’ non-stop hilarity. It’s “Oh Hello” and there’s only two people in it! But they are the super superb sketch comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, who appear as their 70-something alter egos Gil Faison and George St. Geegland. Whether they are a gay couple or not is open to interpretation. The show was described as “very gay” to me, and it is, and it isn’t.
This is simply the story of two old men, who have lived together for over forty years in the same rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side ,”the coffee breathe of New York”, they call it. And they get an eviction notice in Act One. Except there is no intermission so there is no act one.
So much for the plot.
Their apartment, their domaine, as it were is high-ceilinged and so vast that they have spent a lifetime salvaging the sets of closed shows. Main among them the hair dressing salon of “Steel Magnolias”, and the staircase from “some Au-goost Williams” play that they can’t remember the name of. There is a front stoop from “The Cosby Show” on the opposite side of the stage. “We got that because they were throwing it away and nobody wanted it.” Serena Williams and Tennessee Williams were brother and sister. And so it goes…
They are united in their love of theater and theater trivia. Gil claims to be a “multi-Tony Award viewer.” And tries, still, at his advanced age to be an actor, and go out on auditions, even though he has(we find out later in the play) an incontinence problem. They also are wearing white wigs to represent hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in decades. Nor have their clothes. They are always waxing nostalgic for “That Great Decade, the 70s,.”which everything in their apparel and their apartment dates from(great design by the great Scott Pask, costume consultant Emily Rebholz.)
George sports wide wale corduroys that look like they were once brown, but are now sort of purplish with a shine. There’s no shine on his shoes because he is wearing sandals with not-so-white socks. They both look like they need a good bath, but there is no indoor plumbing visible or referred to. You can almost smell them from the front of house.
George is still trying to get his plays done. Largely to no avail, and he wouldn’t appear so preposterous a character, if he didn’t resemble Florence Foster Jenkins’ real life husband/companion in the recent Meryl Streep movie “Florence Foster Jenkins.” That foppish St. Clair Bayfield was played by Hugh Grant in the movie. A real-life failed 1920s actor, he married money. But George St. Geegland and St.Clair Bayfield, they are cut from the same fading theatrical cloth.
Except that George has no money and Gil has even less. You wonder how they manage at all at their advanced ages to pay their $75 a month rent. So the eviction notice heralds disaster .But they ARE spry, and as embodied by the 30-something comic geniuses of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, you love them to pieces.
There is not one comic beat that is missed. Their malapropisms are monumental. Broadway is pronounced “Brid-way,” a phone call is a “finn-call” and an homage is a “Home-page.” But they try and try to get into show business, still, and their constant rejection is our comic bonanza.
Their big “Brid-way” break is just around the corner, and Nathan Lane is off-stage waiting to come on, they assure us. They have a favorite diner on the Upper West Side, but can’t remember its’ name, but they do remember that their menu has “fourteen plastic pages” and that one of the dishes is lobster.
“I was going to order that,” says Gil, “Just to see what would come out.” Mainly they venture outside to get throw aways from “Brid-way bombs. There’s so much to choose from.” The entire scrim from “Fiddler on the Roof”(which is still running BTW. How did they get it?) comes down, and they have to act through its’ gauziness towards the end of what would’ve been Act Two.
And their other culinary obsession is tuna. There seems to be Tuna everywhere on this set, but unlike Big and Little Edie Beale (of “Grey Gardens”fame), there are no visible cats. It’s like they’re the Collyer Brothers, with no piles of newspapers, but a trap-door from “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
They also seem to have or have had a public access TV show called “All That Tuna.” And if this isn ‘t enough to convince you to run right out and see it, every night, they pull an “unsuspecting” celebrity out of the audience, and make him sit down with them to a gigantic tower of tuna sandwich, delivered from the heavens with attached angel’s wings, which they assure us is from “Angels in America.”
Adam Driver (of “Star Wars:The Force Awakens”) was the celebrity guest the night I was there and I’m still shaking with laughter. The theater was suddenly filled with screaming teenage girls in the second and third balcony, and they wouldn’t stop shreiking as George, Gil and Adam sat down at their checkered red and white diner dining table for an interview. It got so bad, Gil just yelled at them “SHAD-DUP!” And they did.Only slated at the moment to run through January, catch them now, while you can. It’s the perfect New York holiday show for misanthropes.