Pantaloons, pistols and wigs---oh my!
Mon Nov 20 2006
You know what the New York improv scene needs? More Colonial America--themed shows. Surely the exploits of our Founding Fathers were rife with comedic possibilities!
Thankfully, two Bostonians have heeded my call for historically influenced improv, and they created the hilarious show Code Duello: Hamilton & Burr. The idea behind the show is simple: We all know how the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr ended (and for you lunkheads who slept through American History 101, Burr killed Hamilton, winning the duel but effectively ruining his own political career), but what led up to it? Neil Reynolds and Matt Tucker (as Burr and Hamilton, respectively), the brains behind the operation, try to answer this question in each show; the results are often bizarre and implausible, but always hilarious.
I got the chance to see the duo at the Peoples Improv Theater on Saturday night, where they performed on a shared bill with local tragic improvisers Harsh. The Code Duello guys start by getting a suggestion of "a Colonial event" from the audience; this night's suggestion was "flag raising." (Not the most Colonial of events, but I digress.) In the first scene, Hamilton (affectionately referred to as "Hammy") asked Burr for help with a skirmish with France; from there, the scenes got wackier, from Burr revealing he has seven mistresses that he keeps in a shed, to the two arguing over the possibility of building a large, Transformer-like woman made of other women.
Sounds silly, right? It is. But it works, mainly because it's clear how committed Reynolds and Tucker are to their roles. They rarely if ever break character (even when Tucker-as-Hamilton lost his wig in the crucial final moments), and always stay true to the scene, even if it makes little to no sense. They also know when to ham it up and when to keep the scenes serious.
The ending, of course, is always the same: Hamilton always loses the duel. It's what leads up to it that really draws you in. It's funny, sure, but it also makes you wonder: These guys were friendly. What could have made them hate each other enough to actually consider murdering one another? We'll never know for sure, but at least we can pretend. Or improvise. Whatever.
Sadly, Code Duello doesn't have any shows scheduled in our area in the near future. Here's hoping that changes sometime soon!