The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One
Also see Susan's review of Dreamgirls
All a reviewer can really say about The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One, now at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, can be summed up in three sentences:
Of course, the reviewer has to say more than that, so here goes.
The Pajama MenShenoah Allen (the stocky, straight-haired one with a radio announcer's voice) and Mark Chavez (the slim, curly-haired one)are natives of Albuquerque, New Mexico, but they have gained greater success through comedy festivals in Great Britain and Australia. Now they're returning to the U.S. with their fascinating, stream-of-consciousness blend of characterization, physical humor, and wordplay. (By the way, they take their name from the fact that they never change out of their pajamas during the 70-minute performance.)
The performance has nothing as traditional as a plot, although it has recurring themes: the lack of communication between fathers and sons; time travel; interaction with space aliens; and loopy bits of observation involving zebras, a squad of airheaded nurses with almost identical names, and language itself. At one point, they take on the role of spectators commenting on audience members in the front row. The performers come from a background in improvisational theater, but it's obvious that they've plotted out what happens whenat least in outline formand they seem to communicate telepathically with each other.
Specific moments may not make sense when described out of context; indeed, many of them don't make a lot of sense in context, but they're still insanely funny. So Allen, during a medical exam by Chavez, keeps inhaling without exhaling until he inflates like a balloon. An alien invader has a conversation with his own forehead. As two women gossip, one of them turns into a snarling cat. The men attempt to speak French and Chinese simultaneously. They perform as marionettes, controlled by an invisible puppeteer. And, on occasion, they make really bad puns. ("What kind of ship is this?" "A relationship!")
As is becoming obvious, commentary is beside the point when talking about the Pajama Men. They must be experienced to be understood.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company