I would buy a ticket to watch Toby Mulford and Rachel Spicknall Mulford eat their cereal in the morning. I won’t, because that might be considered weird, and I’m pretty sure they don’t want me staring at them in their kitchen. But as Dr. Dour and Peach in The Monster Songs, this musical duo proves their mettle in comedy, whimsy, and the unexpected.
The cabaret-style evening takes us through a host of original numbers, with Dr. Dour on vocals and a hypnotic 10-string touch guitar. Peach, his guileless assistant, joins him on cello and banjo.
Inhabited by monsters of all stripes, the songs are full of charm and wit. These monsters walk the streets of the grocery store with you (you know the type, always hunting for cans of discounted tuna); they fabricate Lego civilizations in the den for the pleasure of stomping all over them; they seduce children with batches of gingerbread. They’ve been domesticated, most of them, and are just trying to go about their lives like anyone else.
Lucky for us, Dr. Dour—ethnocryptozoomusicologist extraordinaire—has conducted interviews with them and shares his findings with us through song.
It’s for science. It’s a reflection on humanity. It’s a brilliant excuse for a kazoo solo. Or all of the above.
Monsters aside, the heart and belly-laughs of this piece come from watching the two performers interact. And, perhaps more important, improvise.
Let me explain.
The performance begins. Dr. Dour—one part mime, one part steampunk frontman—clears his throat. The faithful and childlike Peach clears hers (adorably). Dr. Dour clears his again. She clears hers, (adorably), once more. They continue in this manner for another minute or so. And the audience is howling.
Why is this so funny? Well, the performers come from DC’s commedia dell’arte troupe Faction of Fools, where they’ve honed their clowning craft. Which means from one moment to the next, it’s hard to say what’s scripted and what’s improvised.
Thus, when (what seemed to be) a bit about a faulty guitar strap quickly escalated into an apparent technical difficulty, it was every bit as entertaining as the rest of the onstage banter.
We were remiss to have lost a song in the mix, but watching Dr. Dour and Peach work their way through reattaching some extremely complicated straps to the 10-string touch guitar—all the while filling time with banter, back and forth, and impromptu one-liners. “We’re on the verge of this not being funny anymore,” says Dr. Dour, sometime after the eight-minute mark. But, to no one’s surprise, everyone was still laughing.
The Monster Songs
Conceived by Toby Mulford
1021 7th Street NW 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Did I mention the kazoo solo?
Take me to the DCTS 2014 Capital Fringe Guide