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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 3.22.07

Let Them Eat Cake

Three Guys aren't naked or amusing in VH1 copycat tale

SHARLEEN NELSON

Despite a tease for nudity in the title, Actors Cabaret of Eugene's production of Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down doesn't deliver. And for a play that's supposed to be about what it's like to be struggling comedians who finally make it big in show business, it doesn't deliver much in the way of comedy either.

Three guys & three puppets dressed all the way down

The underlying story isn't bad if you like watching VH1's Behind the Music, which follows the meteoric rises, eventual breakdowns and tumbles from glory of '80s bands. Three Guys Naked is the same recycled story — with comedians instead of musicians. It's set in the 1980s, of course, and features three archetypical comics: Ted Klausterman (Gaylord Walker), the traditional host/stand-up comedian; Phil Kunin (Tyler Holden), the hip urban comic with the "angry man" shtick; and Kenny Brewster (Colin Gray), a manic Robin Williams-esque goofball who pushes the envelope of funny via darkly themed antics dealing with death and suicide. They decide to get together and form an act. The trio manages to land a gig on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and from there their careers take off, spawning a wildly successful TV sitcom called Hello Fellas, which features them as L.A. cops who dress up in drag to perform their jobs. But after a worldwide tour, the guys begin to feel the pressure of being typecast. Degraded and embarrassed, exploited by greedy agents and weary of contracts, they watch as things begin to fall apart.

Although mildly amusing at times, the play falls flat — through no fault of the actors — because the material just isn't funny. When the playwright was writing the script, it appears that he forgot that his characters are comedians, and that despite the tragedy and pitfalls of stardom, the audience should expect that the material would reflect the talent that made the comedians stars in the first place. Instead, we hear narrative telling us that these guys are great comedians without providing any real evidence. As a result, we don't give a damn about the characters. Further crippling the show is the music. The songs aren't nearly as bad as they are tedious. In the play, songs replace dialogue when it would be more effective to simply have the characters speak. And even when there is dialogue, it's often delivered in a grating Dr. Seuss-like rhyming rap. I kept waiting for the play to get better, but it only became more mind-numbing as it progressed.

To be fair, Walker, Holden and Gray get an A for effort. They really did the best they could with the material they were provided. Having seen these three fine actors perform onstage before, as well as having attended numerous productions at ACE, I know that all have consistently executed their parts well. I wanted to laugh but couldn't find any reason to. Perhaps that's why Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down was so disappointing.

I heard probably the most humorous line of the night outside during intermission. One of the theater patrons said, "They served me a cheesecake shaped like a penis. They made it just for me," to which a female patron responded, "I guess I should have ordered the dessert!"

The play continues March 23, 24, 30 &31 and Apr. 6 and 7 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene.