Chainsaw Spaceman
Hoskins & Breen at Coho
Through April 20

At the opening night showing of Chainsaw Spaceman, in the midst of the first scene--a riff on farmers and the machinery they love--John Breen broke character and started giggling to himself. It was a fascinating moment that could only happen at a show's premiere, when the fear of failure is so prominent that even the smallest titter from the audience can induce an unplanned smile of relief from the performers. This moment of unplanned relief was well earned for Hoskins and Breen; the audience wasn't just tittering, it was roaring.

Hoskins and Breen understand that the best comedy is bred out of characters, not situations. There are no punch lines to be found here, no "one-liners." Their characters take themselves seriously because they are real, and as a result, talk like real characters. The farmers talk about their families and power tools with such earnestness, that I found myself loving them, and I laughed because they were funny people, but also because I loved them so much. Later, Hoskins and Breen played space aliens plotting to steal some leads that would give them an advantage in farmer abduction (a brilliant homage to Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross), and I laughed again for the same reasons. Still later, they played cockney British good old boys talking about putting the "wee little baby Jesus" on a Ritz cracker, and I laughed still harder.

And then there was the scene with the "spacemen" of the title: two miniature spacemen dolls attached to plastic rods, controlled from the wings by Hoskins and Breen. It told the sad and lovely tale of a brave explorer left to die on the surface of the moon, and when it was over the audience let out a collective sigh, as together we realized we'd been holding our breath. In a steady stream of stellar comedy, it was an island of quiet and blissful pathos. It was transcendent.