More Than Pants
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
August 9, 2008
More Than Pants is also more than typical sketch comedy, which seems to be the background of writer-performers Brigid Boyle and Jennifer Subrin. This is to say that the sketches, while largely comic, add up to something more meaningful and satisfying than a series of jokes.
Taking place in the existential wing of a home for underprivileged boys, More Than Pants concerns two young orphans, both named Willy. (Think Beckett writing a parody of Dickens for The Carol Burnett Show, and then make that world goofier than Beckett, more relaxed than Dickens, and at times much stranger than The Carol Burnett Show.) One Willy—the tall, bossy, petulant, gently-paranoid Boyle—has pants and the other Willy—the short, wan, unflappable, partially-absent-always Subrin—does not. This difference is more existential than consequential and is, thankfully, not a contentious source of discussion. Instead, the hot topics include: puberty, adoption, mortality, and the ambiguous rules of a self-created role-playing game about tax evasion in the American South.
The twosome have a kind of love-hate relationship: the shorter, less-clothed Willy holds a sweet brotherly affection for his roommate, which the taller, trousered Willy regards with suspicion, contempt, and familial longing. It is much easier to find the "hate" in such relationships; it is much funnier to explore the "love." And this latter achievement, in addition to an unapologetic oddness, is what I found so intriguing about this piece.
Under the deft direction of Abby Sher, these performers are wonderful foils—Subrin, who walks and talks like a lightly-bludgeoned wren, needs a very strong straight man, and Boyle, as though a squeamish veterinarian who does not specialize in birds, is just that. At times, their writing meanders a bit: the scenes could be more taut in terms of timing, and the semi-satirical jabs (say, the anachronistic Self-Help-speak) could be more pointed and precise. But ultimately, the generous and deep affection the creators have for this pair of scamps makes More Than Pants so winning that the shortcomings seem not so far off the mark.