Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Poppers and Peepers and Popo, Oh My!

by Michael Block

Batman and Robin. Bert and Ernie. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Zach and Viggo? While taking their show on the road, Zach Zucker and Viggo Venn took a pitstop at The PIT Loft for a sold out presentation of their acclaimed Zach & Viggo: Thunderflop.
Through a series of comical sketches, Zach Zucker and Viggo Venn take the audience on a journey inside their wild minds. And along the way they must take on some heroic battles including some unruly villainous audience members. Decked out in unitards and tights, Zach & Viggo: Thunderflop thrives upon the thunderous roar of laughter in order to save themselves from flopping in a sea of silence. With a background of physical comedy and clowning, Zach & Viggo can be a dynamic duo, very much like a Bill Irwin and David Shiner tandem, once their bits get a bit of a polishing as a continuous arc. While most of the night Zucker and Venn spend apart, solo in their own scenes, when they are together there is a mesmerizing energy that fills the room. With a simple cardboard "Kiss Cam" and the best of Jock Jams accompanying, Zucker and Venn get a series of unsuspecting audience members to have their chance on the "Jumbotron" and the result is priceless. It's moments like this that make the night a blast. Individually, Zucker and Venn offer a well-balanced comedy. Both guys are super charismatic yet they each have a particular style to their craft. Venn has a classic physical comedy in him in the vein of Monty Python. When Venn breaks out his noodle arm security guard, he shines, like the police siren light taped to his head. Zucker transcends the classical style, contributing a more "commercial" comedy. There's a charm to his demeanor. Between his daredevil feats of stupidity with poppers to his vapid LA actor with a bit of a speech problem, Zucker has a marketable comedic package.
In pieces like this, the desire of breaking down the fourth wall is essential. Many of their beats involved some sort of audience participation. They relied heavily on unwilling participants, many of whom derailed the momentum. With their director, Dr. Brown, defining the clarity of when the audience interaction is desired will be of great worth. Once Zucker and Venn invite the audience to play along, it's fair game for any sort of interaction. Even if it's unwarranted. A heckle or two may seep in and damage the flow. Perhaps even pairing down the participatory moments could help. They should trust their worth as great performers and avoid unnecessary gimmicks. The substance is present. The polishing is next.
Accidental or not, there is a very loose common thread that ties the evening together. The unpopped poppers (or bang snaps or snappers for those of you may have a different item in mind) that explode throughout the night as Zucker, Venn, and their audience friends step on them are a nice throwback to Zucker’s daredevil act but intentional or unrelated is the question. The peeping mouse does help in bookending the show but adding a stronger through line will add an even stronger cohesiveness to Zucker and Venn’s work.
It’s likely this is just the beginning of Zach & Viggo. While a world tour is next, what happens after is what is exciting. There is promise in this young talented duo. Putting a modern spin on throwback comedy is certainly in their wheelhouse. And it’s a welcome reminder of the roots of the genre.

About this production: 

Zach & Viggo: Thunderflop
Written & Performed by Zach Zucker and Viggo Venn
Directed by Dr. Brown
Produced by Jonny Woolley