Sunday, February 17, 2013

Old Hats *****

It has been 20 years since Bill Irwin and David Shiner brought their two-man show"Fool Moon" to Broadway. It was such a hit that it returned three years later and again three years after that. I hope that their new show "Old Hats." now in previews at Signature Theatre, will be equally successful. With the possible exception of "All in the Timing," you won't find as many laughs in any other New York theater today. Their hair may be a bit grayer and sparser, but these two talented mimes have not lost an iota of inventiveness or plasticity. The several skits they perform alone and together keep the laughs coming, almost without pause. Between skits and at intermission, the lovely composer/singer/pianist Nellie McKay leads a band of five in her catchy songs with wry lyrics. Individually, Irwin and Shiner are superb, but the sparks they create together make their joint skits even funnier. "A Magic Act," featuring Shiner as a slinky magician with a pomaded ponytail and Irwin in a blonde curly wig and high heels as his assistant, is by itself worth the price of admission. The two break their silence for a moment early in the second act with an amusing outcome. In a reprise from their earlier show, Shiner plays a silent film director shooting a scene from a cowboy movie with four "volunteers" from the audience with hilarious results. The clever projections by Wendall K. Harrington add to the fun. G.W. Mercier's scenic and costume designs are delightful. The lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski and the sound design by John Gromada contribute to the merriment. Tina Landau's direction keeps things lively. Get your ticket while you can or you'll miss out on two hours of delight.

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