Sunday, March 29, 2015

Must die? Really?

'Jeff Coons and Ben Dibble Must Die' is 20 minutes of theater-world in-joke delight, then a bit of a time-waster.

Must die? Really?

Who cares about actors Jeff Coon and Ben Dibble? Unless you regularly attend theater in Philadelphia, you probably don't, and you probably still won't after seeing this fun, frivolous Philly Fringe time-waster.

However, for an industry insider, the first 20 minutes will sing like pure comedy gold. Every overlooked actor and director in town alleges the parochial, borderline incestuous nature of the local biz; props go to this show's creators (Mike Doherty, Greg Nix, and Alex Bechtel) for calling out the region's larger theatre companies for repeatedly hiring Coon and Dibble for (too) many of the area's lead musical roles. Doherty and Nix, two younger performers passed over for these parts, decide to off their competition.

But the plot's strong start quickly devolves into a series of loosely connected skits, including a pantomimed training montage — funny in a South Park movie, a time-filler in this already stretched 75-minute show. Doherty's manic comic intensity elevates each scene, but for a new musical (CDs on sale!), the sum total of two full songs completely wastes Bechtel's massive musical talent.

Twenty-five years from now, it will take a bit more creativity for anyone to care enough to kill Doherty and Nix.  

-- Jim Rutter

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