Even my culture-savvy bestie from Albuquerque was a little dim on The Pajama Men, the New Mexico improvisational duo of Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez currently showing off their sleepwear—and comedic gifts—at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company throughout the holiday season. “I think I’ve heard of Chavez, but the other guy, I dunno,” she said.
They may not be famous on their home turf, but The Pajama Men have been delighting audiences and earning accolades in Canada, the U.K. and Australia with their quicksilver character studies and quirky physical comedy.
Their latest show, The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One, introduces Washington audiences to their paradoxical, sometimes metaphysical skits and goofball tomfoolery.
The two met in high school while auditioning for an improv group in 1993 and began performing together in 2000. That seminal meeting combined with Mr. Chavez remarking during the show “I feel like my life is being written by an 8-year-old” partially explains the boyish energy and adolescent curiosity that prevades In the Middle of No One, which can best be described as a loose-limbed meditation on time-travel, intrepid adventurers, space aliens and thorny relationships.
The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One
Closes January 6, 2013
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St NW
1 hour, 10 minutes without intermission
Tickets: $35 – $65
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Where else can you find a riotous running gag concerning the South American Give-It-To-Me Bird that emits a distinctive squawk like online porn mixed with an Animal Planet special? Or a fantastical ice beast who acts and sounds like the singer Cee-Lo in his most attitude-dripping moments on The Voice? Or a sketch where a remark “I could rip my face off” is taken quite literally and another where a pair of marionettes stiffly misbehave—both of which reveal the depths of the duo’s talent with Silly Putty facial elasticity and seemingly boneless body contortions?
Mr. Allen and Mr. Chavez, aided by the poker-faced musician Kevin Hume, who noodles on the piano and guitar at the corner of the stage, do all of this and more without costumes (other than their trademark pjs) or props, save for two black chairs.
The plot is more of a genre-mixing shaggy dog story about a time traveler who goes back in time to stop time travel from ever being invented. Got all that? The show gets so daffily convoluted you wonder how they are ever going to knit together the various plotlines, asides and deviations and bring it all back home, but somehow they do and even end the evening on a peculiar grace note.
The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One . Created and performed by Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez . Presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard