A few minutes into “Oh, Hello” I noticed in front of me a well dressed older man with a disinterested posture. Maybe he wasn’t a fan of the stand up comedy of John Mulaney or Nick Kroll or the sketches from Kroll Show, the latter’s Comedy Central series that birthed the characters of two stylized curmudgeons from the Upper West Side who were now lighting up the historic Lyceum Theater. Maybe he had already decided this was a pop culture cash in and there was nothing for him here, but as the two began their descent into a near perfect deconstruction of the theater (surprise surprise, the show is wonderful), one thing became clear: It wasn’t IF they’d break through to the stiff man in front of me, but when.
Mulaney and Kroll play George St. Geegland and Gill Faizan, two decades long best friends who are thrown to the wind after the comfort of their rent stabilized apartment is taken away. The plot doesn't dig much deeper, but the story itself is just a springboard for the two to completely dismantle both cliches of the theater and New York in a rapid fire series of disjointed vignettes. The narrative is broken constantly, peppered with asides to the audience, requests for bathroom breaks, criticism from one another about their delivery, etc. It’s the slapdash, shooting-from-the-hip vibe that gives it all a special charm, with all the silliness enhanced by the fever dream of a set, a cobbled together collection of props and other memorabilia from previous shows at the Lyceum that seems to constantly remind us not to take this too seriously.
The result is a laugh on nearly every line thanks to the incredibly polished script and endearing characters the two have delicately crafted, as well as something all too rare to Broadway, playful moments of improvisation that, thanks to their obvious friendship and comfortability, is (gasp!) actually just as funny as the dialogue. No moment overstays its welcome as the two pin ball their way from discussing their origin story to chewing out their unpaid intern in the booth for delayed sound cues to introducing genuine surprise celebrity guests for an impromptu talk show to addressing specifically expensive set pieces as specifically expensive set pieces, all culminating in a final bow that leaves the audience satisfied that there is not one more drop of humor to be squeezed from the evening.
When the man in front of me eventually let out a satisfied laugh (during a very small moment when Mulaney’s Geegland showed genuine contempt for the audience for not being into Steely Dan enough to enjoy the show) I could tell he finally agreed he wasn’t seeing some flash in the pan novelty act, but something completely different. He relaxed like he was listening to an exotic instrument he had never heard before but that he couldn’t deny was fine tuned and being played with perfection. You don’t have to already love Kroll and Mulaney to find something special here, though like listening to copious amounts of Steely Dan it’s better for you in the long run.
Review: Dave Columbo
Photo: Dave Kotinksy