‘The Pajama Men: Just The Two of Each of Us’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company by Amanda Gunther

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Two men. One stage. 700 years to get it right. A dozen characters. A million laughs. And a partridge in a pair tree. Scratch the partridge and the pear tree, who wants fruit and foliage when you can have The Pajama Men: Just The Two of Each of Us back at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company this holiday season? You put these two comic clowns from Albuquerque, New Mexico on stage together—and in their pajamas no less—and you get one hell of a hilarious show. Warning: Comic Shenanigans will ensue, you will laugh—hard—and merriment will be had. Conceived and performed by Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez with Musical Accompaniment by Kevin Hume, this zany absurd long-form sketch show is just what you need to tickle your funny bone through Christmas and right into the new year.

Left to right: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez - The Pajama Men. Photo by Steven Dawson.
Left to right: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez – The Pajama Men. Photo by Steven Dawson.

For the second year running The Pajama Men have returned to Woolly Mammoth, this time bringing their new show Just The Two of Each of Us, along for the ride. If you want to know what it’s about you’ll have to go and see for yourself because any attempt that I would make to describe the immortal king, the weird Italian guy whose life is “too easy,” the catty ‘BFF’ girls – and everything else in-between – would only confuse you and never do this ridiculously hilarious production justice. Sketch comedy has never felt tighter than the way these two fine and talented gentlemen are presenting it in the district this Christmas.

The show opens with a series of bad puns and just spirals into chaotic shenanigans from there. Sketch comedy as a theatrical medium can be difficult to execute at the best of times as not all of your audience is going to enjoy everything. However, Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen clearly demonstrate that they know a thing or two about how to make comedy work on stage. The show is extremely well-formulated – and while at first the sketches may seem like absolute random gibberish – they are all eventually rounded up, laced together, and tied off into one surprisingly cohesive narrative. Chavez and Allen’s ability to make sense in the nonsensical is astounding and makes the comedy that much more rewarding as not only is their show a series of hilarious scenes and snippets but it also tells a rather quirky story. The pair of performers masters tying up all the loose ends and really makes everything fit in this whacky plot they’ve constructed while still creating the authentic feel of sketch comedy with some improvisation thrown in to keep things lively.

Both Chavez and Allen perform a plethora of characters throughout the show making it one intense ride of up-and-down comic hits that really smacks the audience in the face and makes you laugh— or at the very least groan aloud at how dreadful the puns are. Allen relies heavily upon the physicality and gestures of his body to construct vivid characters; his eyes practically pop out of his head at times and every crazy event that happens to his characters plays out vividly in his facial features. Chavez relies more on the vocal work he brings to the character, demonstrating an impressive array of accents and sounds. Both men have superb sound effects that are so realistic that they border on cartoonish— especially Chavez starts squishing and squashing his way through the murky mire of the bog or when he’s taking on his horse persona.

Allen has something exceptionally charming about his personality that enables him to deliver bad puns in such a way that it causes the audience to laugh, even when they are truly dreadful! He engages with not only the characters that Chavez is creating opposite of him on the stage but with the characters he has created— acknowledging moments when things go awry and working them into the show, making it that much funnier. Chavez has a natural humor in his voice and really goes above and beyond the call of comical duty to exaggerate some his characters to the point of absurdity; which really causes the audience to buckle over in great peals of laughter.

The dynamic duo play incredibly well off one another and are having so much fun up on the stage that it’s impossible not to enjoy their show. There are even moments when their characters crack away because what’s happening is so amusing that they just can’t hold it together any longer and watching them struggle to work through a scene as one cracks the other up is hysterical. There is refreshing originality in all of their sketches and a brilliant approach to really finding the truth in comedy. No breath feels timed, no joke contrived; the level of organic existence of their comic timing and delivery is practically scaling Everest. These two brilliant performers are able to coax the nuances of comedy out of their bodies, their voices, even just moments of silence from time to time and really present it to the audience in such a way that you are right there in the throng of things.

Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen. Photo by Steven Dawson.
Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen. Photo by Steven Dawson.

The show boils down to one epic conclusion that quickly brings every sketch to a conclusion, and left me wanting more with my sides sore from laughing, my eyes wet because I laughed so hard that I cried, with my palms stinging from clapping so hard for an encore. The Pajama Men are truly remarkable craftsmen when it comes to the trade of comedy.

If you’re in need of a good and thorough cathartic laugh this time of year— and who isn’t?— be sure to head to Woolly Mammoth for this limited engagement of The Pajama Men: Just The Two of Each of Us !

Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, with no intermission.

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The Pajama Men: Just The Two of Each of Us plays through January 5, 2014 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company—641 D Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets call the box office at (202) 393-3939, or purchase them online.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.