nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
March 9, 2007
Remember those old sketches on The Tonight Show where Johnny Carson and his cohorts would amuse themselves so much that they'd all just crack up and start ad-libbing? If so, then you have a good idea of what Ray Besharah and Matthew Domville's new comedy, G-Men Defectives, is all about. Billed as a G-man training session, this comic two-hander is more an opportunity for the authors (who also appear in the show) to unleash their anarchic brand of humor on the world. Taken on its own terms, there's much to be charmed by here.
Besharah and Domville play Garfield and Marmaduke, two pompous bumbling G-men in charge of training new recruits (i.e., the audience) to sniff out commies anywhere. Their lesson plan plays out over several episodic sketches that quickly get off track and never get back on. Garfield and Marmaduke debate the virtues of pie versus donuts; they amusingly recount how they first met each other, and later how they almost died in each other's arms (they got shot trying to eat some pie).
There's also lots of audience participation. The two G-men weed out a commie amongst the trainees (a not-completely-amused older couple in the second row on the night I attended), manage to score a ride home after the show (from the cast of fellow FRIGID show Can't Get Started no less), and bring a lucky trainee on stage to punch one of them in the stomach (yours truly on the evening in question).
On a craft level, G-Men Defectives feels as if it's almost always on the verge of falling apart. Besharah and Domville look as if they've put this show together completely unsupervised, and it often feels like the audience is watching them rehearse. This approach may leave some skeptical at first (myself included) until one realizes that the show's casual-to-the-point-of-collapsing vibe is exactly what the creators are aiming for. After that, G-Men Defectives is easy to enjoy.
Anyone who likes their humor low and silly will like this show. And, if you're if a good trainee, as I was, you'll even get to take a bow at curtain call. In keeping with their unorthodox methods, Besharah and Domville are not above sharing the spotlight with others.