It had been a few years since I last saw Cathleen Carr and Daiva Deupree (aka Two Girls For Five Bucks) perform live onstage in Boston, and when I heard they had re-staged their sketch show with a live band this month at Ars Nova in NYC, I wasn't sure how they'd incorporate a band into their act. Turns out they did so quite seamlessly. And as they told me after last night's show, they managed to rework their entire show to include the three-piece band, The Ten Dollar Heartbreakers, all in less than a month! Wow. If I hadn't known about their earlier stage incarnation, I would have thought Carr and Deupree had been working with musicians Vinny Commisso, Justin Levine and Matthew Stoulil for much much longer than that. Drummer Commisso and bass player Stoulil had previously backed Adira Amram in an Ars Nova show, and the theater wisely asked them and pianist Levine to see what more than a little musicality could add to the Two Girls show.
Carr and Deupree have a well-established comedy dynamic going, with Carr playing the married woman who leads an otherwise stable (read: boring) life and debates whether she should have kids, while Deupree plays the more energetic and physical role as the forever single who feels as though her love life is pathetic. They've playfully compared themselves to the Today show's Kathie Lee and Hoda, and if you find yourself laughing at the fourth hour of NBC's morning programming on a regular basis, then you'll be similarly treated here as Carr and Deupree play co-workers hosting a bachelorette party gone awry ("Your vagina is a dead ringer for Diane Sawyer!"), fall asleep together on the LIRR, and find themselves helping one another as military wives in the 1940s. They share embarrassing photographs from their childhood. Deupree gets her own moment to shine in a sexy funny rendition of "You Can Keep Your Hat On." And there's a finale that relives Deupree's dreams from the night before that helps to show off the added production values that Ars Nova has given to Two Girls. Throughout, the band is more than just three guys in the corner. They participate in a series of new videos Two Girls shot for this production, literally "populating the stage" as director Andy Donald calls it, and they get to show off their musical chops during the interludes. Impressive all around.
Here's a teaser video:
Cathleen Carr and Daiva Deupree met years ago through Improv Asylum, and they've returned to Boston and IA with a limited engagement show of their own that deserves your attention. Their aptly-named "Two Girls For Five Bucks" began its run Oct. 5 and continues at 10 p.m. Thursdays through Nov. 9.
They begin simply enough, sitting next to each other, facing the audience and describing what they've learned about love from their parents. Whether true or not, it's no matter. They ably set up the rest of the show through this opening confessional, playing off of each other throughout various sketches about love and relationships, with Deupree's characters invariably wilder and carrying more psychological and emotional baggage. The show has nice pacing, building throughout Act One to a winning Platoon climax. And their chemistry is great. Whether they're acting out awkward conversations with ex-boyfriends or imagining the scenario for loooonely war brides in WWII, these two know how to co-exist in a scene, allowing Carr and Deupree to shine equally. Many duos don't sustain such balance, instead prompting you to wish you could see one more than the other.
Both Carr and Deupree commit to their characters and scenes with such abandon that you willingly go along with them for the ride. A recurring skit about two wholly inappropriate employees from Human Resources gets progressively crazier, to good effect. A couple of "silent" scenes show they can generate laughs without getting too chatty, although when they do let loose, their personal stories about their first sexual experiences and their lack of magical expertise are both humorous and heartfelt. It's all thoroughly enjoyable.
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