Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of Albuquerque-based comedy/theater duo bring their A-game to Austin’s Moontower Comedy Festival.
Austin — Don’t eat the spider or you might end up in the belly of a monster. It’s not such a bad monster. Ingesting its fur brings about immortality. But that allows a foppish king over 700 years to procrastinate about saving the world. The king’s Igor-ish magician, Leopold, also ate some hair of the beast and goes along for the ride. And what a ride it is.
Such is Just the Two of Each of Us, the latest universe created by The Pajama Men, the comedy duo of Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez from Albuquerque, New Mexico, that has been performing together for over 20 years. Sometimes it seems like you’re listening in to twins who’ve created their own language. But if you stay actively engaged with a Pajama Men show and commit to the universe they comedically forge, you are well rewarded. They perform a final show for Moontower Comedy Festival on Thursday night at Stateside.
In Just the Two of Each of Us, The Pajama Men present two-man theater fused with inventive physical humor and surprisingly realistic vocal sound effects, laced with a lot of sharp one-liners. They shapeshift between characters and scenes with split-second finesse. A myriad of storylines layer, braid and converge at the end. Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hume provides a subtle yet effective soundtrack.
Allen exists at a Bill Irwin-esque level of talent, with a stocky body that stretches into any form and rubbery face that holds a world of emotion. He ranges from the impeccably created hunchbacked, lisping Leopold, a sly guy who cracks himself up, to the optimistic Franz who sees life as too easy (regardless of the circumstances) but saves the day in the end by doing something hard. With his infectious glee, Chavez embodies an inventive, subversive level of insanity, yet grounds the proceedings through his clear humanity. Both fling out punchlines at unexpected times that yank the laughs right out of you. And yes, they perform entirely in pajamas.
Pajama Men portray young girls and good-old boy sheriffs. They ride Harley choppers with Chavez acting as the motorcycle. They enact a playette with Chavez doing finger people on a stage created by the Allen’s palm, and vice versa. Midway they create a newscast and breathlessly perform all roles including dithering newscasters, on-the-street reporters, and commercial breaks. It’s a fun mocking of “news” mindset: “Dolphins, or are they? Some say they’re sharks on Ecstasy.”
The time-warp tale finally fuses as the King gets his act together, Beulah makes the ultimate sacrifice, and the Medieval Mountain Rock Casino & Family Fun Center Bouncy House Castle is saved from destruction. But Nadine never gets her arm back.
The Pajama Men spin truly transcendent stuff, but these are character comics, not jokesters. It is a duet of spoken word that reaches the level of vocal jazz and physicality so refined it approaches dance. No wonder they were rated No. 1 out of more than 2,000 acts at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and were the highest-selling act hosted by The Soho Theatre in London, England.