Harrington & Kauffman
Reviews of our most recent show, Cabaret Terrarium:
Harrington & Kauffman reinvent, or just blow up, whatever category they're meant to occupy... you'll find it either insanely brilliant, or brilliantly insane, and probably both. Liz Nicholls, Edmonton Journal
The show is at once absurd and sweet, smart and silly. In fact, the duo could probably just stand onstage doing absolutely nothing and still be hilarious. And I am not exactly sure why. It just is. Jessica Potter, See Magazine
See more reviews of Cabaret Terrarium, including audio and video interviews, in the links at left.
2003-2006: Some of these reviews are on the original websites, and you might have to search for the word "Nharcolepsy."
Edmonton Journal • Edmonton Sun • Edmonton Vue • Edmonton See • Offoffoff.com (New York) • Curtainup.com (New York) • Theatermania.com (New York) • nytheatre.com • Seattle Times • TheatreSeattle.com • threeimaginarygirls.com (Seattle) • Toronto Eye • Toronto Now • Westword (Denver, preview)
[Raises] the level of comedy to a high art. ...[Exemplifies] the rigorous standards of performance and writing that Fringe plays achieve at their best. The Globe and Mail, Toronto
We all may be figments in the imaginations of everybody's favourite cabaret singers, Gustave Flaubert and Nhar, but I can't think of a better place to exist. ...[Will] leave you breathless from laughter. Sleep will be the last thing on your mind with entertainment this fabulous. Uptown Magazine, Winnipeg
The only person in the Warehouse who didn't crack a smile during this hilarious hour of bizarro storytelling was grim-faced actor Richard Harrington... [and] Kauffman performs an abominable rendition of Stormy Weather which will have you chuckling for days. Winnipeg Free Press
Harrington is a master straight man and Kauffman is a talented physical comedian. Winnipeg Sun
MOTEL CALIFORNIA (reviews from 1998-2002)
(Note: all reviews that refer to Hotel California, Motel California and The Show Formerly Known As are referring to the same show. It was originally Hotel California, but unfortunately that turned out to be the name of a famous song by The Eagles. There might be occasional mention of Don Henley or of The Eagles in these reviews, but Harrington & Kauffman would like to make clear that they have no affiliation, past or present, with Don Henley or with attorneys for Don Henley or The Eagles):
I am excited and a little afraid to see what these two will do next. Backstage (New York)
The actors have created two totally inexplicable characters who could probably stand on stage brushing their hair for 20 minutes and make you laugh. Baltimore CityPaper
Their sights [are] fixed unerringly on the absurd. Orlando Weekly
"I'm watching this for the first time and I'm thinking to myself, what in God's name is this? What is this thing I'm watching? It's not exactly theater, or is it?" Pesce ... realized during the performance that he was witnessing the evolution of a new style of theater. Albuquerque Journal (preview article)
It's small and subtle, and ineffable bits of comedy snowball to the inevitable conclusion. Albuquerque Journal (review)
Hilarity meets brilliance in one twisted tour-de-force... one of the most hilarious bits in Fringe history. Edmonton Journal
Once you get into the right space, all of this is laugh-out-loud, uproariously funny. I have no idea why. Edmonton Sun
It's rough, tender and terribly funny, and you can't take your eyes off it. See Magazine (Edmonton)
Hilariously deadpan delivery. Vue Weekly (Edmonton)
At times, you're not quite sure why their material is so funny. InTheater (New York)
Well, you just had to be there. TimeOut New York
"Hotel California" is a triumph... This is comedy of the highest order... It's the best, most imaginative and most thoroughly entertaining comedy at this year's Fringe. CBC-TV 24 Hours, Winnipeg
Sheer and effortless humor in every twitch, shuffle and utterance. Winnipeg Free Press
Truly strange and hilariously absurd. CBC TV Saskatoon
What's so funny about Belgians? Is it the clothes? The music? Waffles? Winnipeg Sun
Laugh out-loud hilarious! Victoria Times-Colonist
One of those Fringe gems that makes you laugh without knowing why. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Wildly funny, cosmically intelligent ... worthy recipients of the only standing ovation I saw all Fringe long. Prince George Free Press
(from an article about the fringe)
It's one thing to promise weird, another to deliver it
by the New York duo of Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman, is genuinely
bizarre and, I think, brilliant. And there will be those among you who
think I'm crazy. This is the team that brought Hotel California
to the 2001 Fringe, where it was rechristened The Show Formerly Known
As because of threats from Don Henley's lawyer, which is pretty amusing
and from the fringe roundup, later in the week:
August 21, 2004
wholly original and bizarre, and not for people who would rather be watching
TV: Sorry, the leading example of this enlivening Fringe experience has
already up and left town. What you've missed, mes amis, was Gustave Flaubert,
a gloomy Belgian, and his slightly apologetic assistant Nhar, in a surreal
cabaret called Nharcolepsy at the North Pole, before they die
of hypothermia. Meanwhile they take the bottom right out of any previous
notions of deadpan. Full of brilliantly stupid, but not stupidly brilliant,
moments. The people who didn't love it hated it. Liz Nicholls
Humour is Deadly Serious
Nharcolepsy duo of Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman, humour
is a deadly serious business. They crack not a smile as they recount how
they ended up dying of hypothermia while chasing the Yeti to within 12
kilometres of the Canadian North Pole.
clowns Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman wowed me last time they were
in town (The Show Formerly Known As) and totally blew me away
in their brand-new production: Nharcolepsy, an odd-ball tale
of two sad-sack "singer of the cabaret" slowly dying of hyperthermia
[sic] at the North Pole at the tail end of a trek they've undertaken to
track down the Yeti. From their mangled, mock-French accents to
their quirky take on song and dance numbers, this is a show that never
stops entertaining yet manages to be profoundly and soberingly enlightening
at the same time (i.e., addressing those HUGE issues of life and death).
— Gilbert A. Bouchard
If the sheath of reviews spilling out of the press packet I received is any indication, then Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman have become the darlings of thefringe festival circuit. After spending an hour or so as a part of their group hallucination, I think I can understand why. It's not easy dealing with the idea that one's existence is merely a manifestation of someone else's slowly freezing neural pathways, but Harrington and Kauffman in their guises as Belgian "singer of the cabaret" Gustave and his mostly mute sidekick Nhar, certainly present as amusing an argument as one could wish to justify that this is our actual state of being.
With a head mix of Existentialism and Absurdism, combined with skillful physical comedy, Nharcolepsy is a simple tale told simply and to rib-splitting effect. Gustave and Nhar are dying of exposure and hypothermia just a few miles shy of the North Pole, where they have journeyed in order to fulfill Gustave's life long dream of encountering the legendary yeti. As they slowly freeze on the ice flows, they conjure up an audience out of the last dregs of their functioning consciousness in order to give one final performance, which turns out to be an hilarious recounting of Gustave's early childhood, his fascination with the creature that has prompted this journey, and the resulting trek from Norway to their present predicament at the top of the world. Along the way, we figments of their imagination though we may be, are treated to their silly antics performed to Gustave's musical accompaniment on a variety of instruments, and are even allowed to engage in what surely must be a wish-fulfillment for many audience members, being able to pelt the actors onstage with plastic golf balls whenever they begin to nod off into unconsciousness.
in particular as the seldom-speaking Nhar proves to be an adept physical
comedian, while his counterpart Harrington, with his deadpan Jacques Cousteau-influenced
delivery style is an impressive story-teller. Together they conjure
an irresistibly infectious world of remote Norwegian village customs,
goofy made up songs, frolicking polar bears, and a breakdancing Abominable
Snowman. In description it probably all sounds ludicrous -- which
it is -- and incomprehensible -- which it almost is. But, on viewing,
it leaves one with an impression similar to watching Waiting for Godot,
if Godot were in fact assumed to be the shadow of impending death.
By the time they succumb to their inevitable fate, Gustave and Nhar have
used their peculiar brand of humor to teach us a little bit about the
indomitable human spirit and our ability to discover the best part of
our selves even in the face of certain oblivion.
(from an article about the fringes in Western Canada appearing in Toronto's Globe and Mail)
plays, Nharcolepsy (about a Belgian cabaret singer and his sidekick,
who travel to the Arctic to give their last performance) by Richard Harrington
and Chris Kauffman of New York, and The Slip-Knot (in which Toronto's
TJ Dawe brilliantly weaves together stories about three jobs he had, and
the people he encountered through them) raise the level of comedy to a
high art: In very different ways, both of these plays are brilliant. They
exemplify the rigorous standard of performance and writing that Fringe
plays achieve at their best. Robert Enright
We all may
be figments in the imaginations of everybody's favourite cabaret singers,
Gustave Flaubert and Nhar, but I can't think of a better place to exist.
Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman of Hotel California are back
together at the Fringe to present their brilliant and hallucinatory comic
stylings, this time ruminating on "The mystery of life and death."
The two wondrously blend crackling deadpan humour and superb physical
comedy into a this-time-snowy dreamworld that will leave you breathless
with laughter. Sleep will be the last thing on your mind with entertainment
this fabulous. Barb Stewart
The only person in the Warehouse who didn't crack a smile during this hilarious tour of bizarro storytelling was grim-faced actor Richard Harrington, whose deadpan demeanour is reminiscent of an Andy Kauffman/Stephen Wright blend.
Harrington plays a Belgian mercenary-cum-cabaret singer named Gustave Flaubert who, with his speaking mime partner Nhar (Chris Kauffman), treks to the North Pole to fulfill his childhood dream of discovering the Yeti, better known as the abominable snowman. Stuck in a blizzard, the pair perform their last cabaret before they succumb to hypothermia.
who makes a memorable entrance by rolling onto the stage zippered into
a duffle bag, performs an abominable rendition of Stormy Weather which
will have you chuckling for days. Harrington also plays the ukulele, zither
and accordion, but most effectively, the audience, to produce the sweet
sound of laughter. Kevin Prokosh
order off business in this two-man comedy is to hand out small whiffle
balls to the audience. Why? We'll get to that later. As told by one Gustave
Flaubert (Richard Harrington), this is the story of Gus's childhood dream
to discover the legendary Yeti, a search that took him to the North Pole,
where he and his sidekick Nhar (Chris Kauffman) now await certain, frigid
death. The play is disjointed, but Harrington & Kauffman have great
chemistry Harrington is a master straight man and Kauffman is a
talented physical comedian. Overall, Nharcolepsy is worth the price
of admission. And the audience gets to play along. Those balls? They're
for flinging at the actors to wake them from potentially fatal narcoleptic
dozes . Jon Waldman
Reviews of Motel California:
An esoteric and thoroughly bizarre comedy, Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman's MOTEL CALIFORNIA is an entertaining if brief evening at the theater. The 55-minute play tells the story of Gustave Flaubert (Harrington), a no-relation-to-the-writer Belgian man with an incredibly thick accent who hears the Eagles' song "Hotel California" on a trip to Nepal and decides he must become what he calls a "soldier freelance" in Colombia. After spending some quality time killing people, he hears the song again, and the disembodied voice of Don Henley tells him to stop killing people and start a cabaret act. Which he does, with the help of his Harpo-on-quaaludes assistant Nhar (Kauffman).
But all of this is really neither here nor there. Motel California's plot doesn't matter. What matters is the way in which the play displays Harrington and Kauffman's odd sense of humor and admirable acting chops. The pair met in a workshop in 1997 and put together this two-man show, originally titled Hotel California they changed the name for legal reasons performing it at theaters from New York to Prague, on the Canadian fringe-festival circuit, and this past spring at HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. Both actors have an impressive list of credentials, including theatrical, dance, and clowning training from institutions around the world. Their study shows in this funny yet understated play, precisely because the plot doesn't matter.
have created two totally inexplicable characters who could probably stand
on stage brushing their hair for 20 minutes and make you laugh. Baltimore
native Kauffman occasionally holds a paper plate over his head and sings
"Blue Moon" in a voice that sounds like he just gargled broken
glass; elsewhere he pantomimes various actions that sometimes have to
do with the play and sometimes don't. Harrington gives an intentionally
stiff, deadpan performance as the thoroughly humorless yet impressionable
Gustave, singing awkwardly upbeat songs about growing up in Belgium or
killing people while playing a tiny accordion. And when the two dance...
well, it might not sound very funny, but it really is. Motel California
will leave you laughing even as it has you scratching your head.
(from a review of the Orlando International Fringe Festival)
California, on the other hand, is a hoot and a half. Their sights
fixed unerringly on the absurd, comedians Richard Harrington and Chris
Kauffman mount a sly story of a Belgian seeker (Harrington) who embarks
on a new life's path due to the God-like influence of erstwhile Eagle
Don Henley. A nearly mute sidekick (Kauffman) provides the stage-managing
support to our hero's hilariously perfunctory anecdotes, which are punctuated
by silly songs that don't rhyme and a zoology quiz for the audience. You
could win a beer!. Steve Schneider
Joe Pesce and the rest of Albuquerque's Riverside Ensemble have had some amazing experiences while touring their theater productions the last few years. But seeing the hilarious "Motel California" for the first time was one of the most memorable.
"One guy comes out and just starts talking in a Belgian accent about his fascination with Don Henley and the Eagles," Pesce recalled. "Suddenly, he brings out this mute little sidekick of his. He's can't speak, but he's trying to sing 'Blue Moon' because he's never been on stage before and he has an audience and he's trying to emote. "I'm watching this for the first time and I'm thinking to myself, what in God's name is this? What is this thing I'm watching? It's not exactly theater, or is it?"
Pesce, ensemble president, said he realized during the performance that he was witnessing the evolution of a new style of theater.
"These guys are creating something completely original, packing it in a suitcase and going," Pesce said.
It's that sense of wonderment and do-it-yourself theater productions that Pesce wants Albuquerque theatergoers to experience when Riverside reprises the Revolutions International Theatre Festival, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Also on the eclectic bill during the three-week festival are "Tears of the Ditchdigger" by the Djalma Primordial Science Laboratory, previously of Berlin and New York City, but now located in Questa; the renowned Bread and Puppet Theater Company of Vermont; "Live Girls Do Elektra" by the Seattle-based Macha Monkey Productions; "Sabotage II," the absurdist improv piece created by local actors Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez; and the Riverside Ensemble, performing bits from its upcoming season.
The late-night Reptilian Lounge will also run on three consecutive Saturday nights.
More than anything, Pesce wants to expose Albuquerque audiences and theater people to something they probably won't see here.
The show is curated from among the scores of theater groups that Riverside has crossed paths with in Canada and Europe since it began touring in 1995.
"The mandate is that these companies have to be creating new work that they originate themselves," he explained.
In addition, Pesce is looking for theater styles not usually seen here and a willingness of the groups to teach University of New Mexico theater students the styles.
"We all came out of the UNM Theatre Department," Pesce said. "We have a devotion to our old department."
The festival kicks off Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Riverside Theatre with a party featuring food, live music and special guests.
On Thursday, Jan. 17, Bread and Puppet Theatre director Peter Schumann presents "Fiddle Talk," during which he plays musical instruments, chants, talks about the state of the world and about the company's mission.
During week three, Bread and Puppet will present "Insurrection Mass: A Funeral for a Rotten Idea," a satirical and political look at the modern world. Before the shows, the company will bake and distribute bread outside the Center for the Arts at UNM.
The company started in New York City about four decades ago, Pesce said.
"The most important thing about them as an addition to the festival, as sort of the grandfather company ... is that we have these physical comedy companies, retellings of Greek tragedies, original clown pieces and butoh theater and this piece, that shows an example of how to weave politics and art together successfully politics and puppetry, larger-than-life characters and masks."
"Live Girls Do Elektra" features actresses Kristina Sutherland and Desiree Prewitt, who wrote the piece.
"They do a modern version of the Electra-Agamemnon Greek tragedy set in modern suburbia, and it's very funny," Pesce said. "They call it a 'gin-soaked suburbia.' It's a little like if you were to take a Greek tragedy and cross it with 'Bewitched,' or 'I Dream of Jeannie.' "
"Tears of a Ditchdigger" is an example of butoh theater, a combination of live music, structured improvisation and dancing. The avant-garde Japanese art form was created in the '60s and strives for spontaneity, emotional honesty and a connection to the primitive, through abstract body movements.
Pesce said the theater business is tough all over and the groups appearing here are examples of people who did not wait for work to come to them.
"When you get out of school, you don't have to just walk out the front door of the theater department and say, 'wow, there's no jobs for me. I'll just go to work at the bank,' " Pesce said.
"You can sit down with a friend, write a play, rehearse it, create it, book it in festivals yourself. And you can do that and you can live off of that," Pesce added.
ambitious and creative and a brilliant inspiration for UNM students."
(from a review of the Riverside Theater's "Revolutions International Theatre Festival 2002")
...At the Outpost, Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman's "Motel California" is a million miles from "Elektra" in style and tone. It's small and subtle, and ineffable bits of comedy snowball to the inevitable conclusion.
It's the story of Belgian Gustave Flaubert (Harrington) with Kauffman's Nhar as sidekick, chorus and stage manager.
Nhar starts the show with a medley of "Blue Moon," "You Send Me," and "Rocket Man" in a hoarse, halting voice.
Then Flaubert, with a ridiculous French-Belgian accent, reads the story of a menage a quatre with Don Henley of the Eagles and three working girls with great seriousness and intensity.
then tells us the story of his life, growing up in southern Belgium, trekking
in Nepal and working as a mercenary in Colombia. Henley appears to him
in two visitations, and by the end of the show, he's sung karaoke style
"Hotel California," a really silly song....
Ann L. Ryan
Hilarity meets brilliance in one twisted tour-de-force
Not much of a title, but there is a cosmic point in this twisted tour-de-force conceived and performed by Americans Richard Harrison [sic] and Chris Kauffman that ranks as one of the most hilarious bits in Fringe history.
I won't spoil it, but it's the finale, an Andy Kauffman moment arguably funnier than anything Andy ever did.
Harrington plays Gustav [sic] Flaubert, in this reading a 39-year-old Belgique whose life-transforming revelation happened on a pre-university trip to Nepal, when the disembodied voice of Don Henley spoke to him and pointed to the last verse of Hotel California as the key to Gustav's future. As anyone would discern, that involved becoming a paid mercenary, a "soldier freelance" (delivered a la Hercule Poirot) in Colombia, killing his way into a pleasant middle-class life in Cali with a high-tech submachine-gun.
Aided by his tuqued, clownish aide-de-camp Nhar (Kauffman), we're led down Gustav's critical path, guided in important ways at key intervals by the inspiration of the ex-Eagle and the inclusion of a variety of expository ditties performed on the concertina (petite) by M. Flaubert, whose head is square enough to level an I.M. Pei building. Music stretches from Orff to The Gipsy Kings, and Patricia Buckley's directiono is suitably straight-ahead in a charmingly low-tech stage design.
There is brilliance in this cabaret/clowning.
Originally titled Hotel California, Messrs. K and H were slapped with a cease-and-desist order by Eagles lawyers, anxious to protect copyright.
Don and the
boys in Hawaiian shirts and twin Beemers should be proud to be associated
with a work of this distinction. Alan Kellogg
A baffling play but big laughs
I'm speechless. There are two shows at the Fringe this year that render me incapable of words. One is Pure Hoopal. And the other is The Show Formerly Known As.
What are these shows about? What is it they do? And why are they so funny?
Let me try to give you some idea.
There's this guy Chris Kauffman I think. He doesn't say much. In fact, he's mostly a mime. Anyway, he comes out on stage and sings Blue Moon in a voice that sounds like he's been gargling with Drano.
While he sings, he holds a paper plate on the end of a fork over his head. He seems surprised it's there.
Then this other guy comes out. He tells us he's from Belgium. At least I think he says he's from Belgium because he speaks in an accent so thick as to be almost impenetrable. He's Richard Harrington I think. Harrington is so deadpan as to make the Old Strathcona fireman's statue look like Speedy Gonzales. While Harrington is telling us about his career as a ruthless mercenary (actually I think he calls it a "soldier of freelance") in Colombia and Nepal in this pea soup accent and carrying this plastic toy gun (I am not making this up), Kauffman runs around miming out parts of his story, playing the music, setting up the mikes and generally acting as a major domo.
Every once in a while Harrington sings a song that neither rhymes, scans nor makes much sense.
At one point he decides to dance, and there hasn't been such a display since St. Vitus went to his reward.
Once you get into the right space all of this is laugh-out-loud, uproariously funny.
I have no
idea why. Colin McLean
and Chris Kauffman offer the sort of engaging inventiveness that one wants
to see more of. Both performers seeize the attention, but it's Kauffman
who steals the show with his talent for mime, his plaintively hoarse voice
and his delightfully expressive face. It has something to do with Walden
Pond, the life of a mercenary and, well, Don Henley. It's rough, tender
adn terribly funny, and you can't take your eyes off it. I'm not entirely
sure I know what this show is about, but I wouldn't mind seeing it again
all the same. Kevin Wilson
What do Thoreau,
Don Henley, the jungles (?) of Nepal and William S. Burroughs have to
do with each other? Apparently not a lot, but that doesn't stop the Belgian
mercenary Gustave Flaubert (Richard Harrington) and his touqued sidekick
and straight man Nhar (Chris Kauffman) from telling their story. With
a hilariously dead pan delivery they weave their tragic tale all the way
to the big finale the singing of the song that used to be the play's
namesake until Don Henley pulled the plug hint: think hotel in
a west coast state showing the world he no longer has a sense of
humour. It's a good thing this duo has enough for all. P.D.
Things that make you go hmm
Harrington and Kauffman bring their inexplicable comedy show to the Westbeth.
The most inspired comedy is usually the kind you try to describe before following it up with "Well, you had to be there." By this theory, Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman hit the big time when a recent favorable review of their show Hotel California said basically that and added, "At times you're not quite sure why their material is so funny."
Like the critics, audiences have been responding favorably to the duo's show during performances at the St. Mark's Theater, the New York International Fringe Festival and even the Mezi Ploty Festival of Theater in Prague. For the next four Sundays, Harrington & Kauffman will be performing Hotel California at the Westbeth Theatre Center.
So now that you've been told how indescribable the show is, it's time for the description. (Of course, in situations like these, it's best to go ask the artist.) "Ostensibly, it's about two characters trying to put on a cabaret," says Harrington. "One is a former mercenary, the other is this mysterious character that barely speaks. It's basically a clown show."
about the familiar title? Yes, the classic Eagles song also factors into
the show. "A large part of the story," continues Harrington,
"is one character hearing the song in various places and it
tells him to do things." At least it's not "Helter Skelter."
(from a review of the Pure Pop Festival)
... On the
opposite end of the entertainment spectrum is Hotel California
at NADA 45, featuring the talented comedy duo of Richard Harrington and
Chris Kauffman. Harrington plays Gustave Flaubert, a mercenary from Belgium
who has given up his life of killing to star in his own cabaret show;
Kauffman is his mostly silent assistant, Nhar. At times, you're not quite
sure why their material is so funny. Is it Harrington's cartoonish Belgian
accent? His deadpan delivery? Kauffman's confused facial expressions or
thin, scratchy singing voice? The two actors work well together and with
the odd guest artists they bring in (which at the performance I attended
included a zany pair of dancers grooving to a medley of songs from the
'70s and early '80s, a supposedly French professor who literally demonstrated
humankind's evolution, and a folk singer crooning a love ballad to his
stuffed monkey). The show fits in perfectly with the festival's exploration
of popular culture, drawing from rock music, vaudeville, and several other
sources for inspiration.
Each August, the New York International Fringe Festival offers everything from deconstructed Brecht to bright-eyed solo performance to undefinable oddities like "Hotel California," which is being revived through March 3 at the St. Mark's Theater.
"Hotel California" is my favorite kind of Fringe production: a couple of skilled performers with a dangerously subtle sense of comedy and an impassioned embrace of no-budget theater. The show, directed by Patricia Buckley, is ostensibly an earnest attempt at New York cabaret performance by a former mercenary killer from Belgium named Gustave Flaubert (Richard Harrington). Gustave believes the voice of singer/songwriter Don Henley of the '70s supergroup the Eagles whose rock anthem lends the show its title has led him to this new career.
The faithful sidekick to this assassin-turned-song-stylist is the barely audible Nhar (Chris Kauffman). Nhar opens the show with a raspy rendition of "Blue Moon," which he delivers to a styrofoam plate held over his head on the end of a marshmallow fork. You might have to see this to understand how hilarious it is.
Both performers have a gift for props, whether it's a toy accordion or a string of owl-shaped lawn lanterns that acquire an unexpectedly sinister air with the right background music. Elizabeth Greenman's lighting meshes nicely with the sound design of Harrington, Kauffman, and Ian P. Murphy. The wild cards in this evening of controlled chaos are guest artists like Spencer White, a fantastic guitar player and folk singer who, at a recent show, performed a wildly catchy ode to fiber supplements, and Dr. Nicki, a seemingly unassuming woman who rather convincingly spoke the language of dolphins.
states that "Hotel California" is Harrington & Kauffman's
first project together. I am excited and a little afraid to see what these
two will do next. Andy Buck
If you had
told me that a play about a Belgian mercenary who leaves the dispensing
of death to become a cabaret singer because of psychic visitations from
Don Henley would become one of my favourite Fringe shows, I would have
recommended you for the shirt with the long sleeves. But "Hotel California"
is a triumph. Both Richard Harrington as the mercenary, Gustave Flaubert,
and Chris Kauffman as Nhar, his solicitous assistant, are perfect in their
respective roles. Harrington's dead-pan seems a miracle in the face of
what he's saying (and singing), not to mention what Mr. Kauffman is up
to. This is comedy of the highest order and I've never heard a version
of The Eagles' classic song that I like as much as this one. Sell all
your old albums if you have to in order to catch this show. Along with
the Hoopals, it's the best, most imaginative and most thoroughly entertaining
comedy at this year's Fringe.
Robert Enright, CBC 24 Hours
Since it premiered, critics all over North America have been left unable to adequately describe the wonder and pleasure that is Hotel California. This brief review will be no different.
The largest hurdle in the way of an adequate description is the magnificent but unusual humour of Chris Kauffman, who plays the role of Nhar, and Richard Harrington, who is Gustave Flaubert. Together, Nhar and Gustave are a comedic team of clockwork precision that are able to send their audience into convulsion with a single unblinking gaze from their Spartan stage.
Kauffman's Nhar is very nearly a mime (you'll have to buy a ticket to figure out what that means) and he is also the tiny hamster that makes the play's moving parts hum. Harrington's Gustave is, well, difficult to describe. Imagine comic Steven Wright trying to do Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau. (Once again, seeing will be believing.) Together, they present a twisted and demented ode to Don Henley, singer-songwriter and apparently fan of the world's oldest profession.
makes Hotel California hum, however, is the sheer and effortless humour
in every twitch, shuffle and utterance. Although not for everyone, those
with a healthy and broad-minded sense of humour will definitely get it.
You just won't be able to describe it. Dan Lett
This silly cabaret is a toy box full of way-off-the-wall surprises. Gustave Flaubert (Richard Harrington), aided by the downtrodden Nhar (Chris Kauffman) tells us why Don Henley is great. He begins by reading a passage from a soft-porn novel written by pros who allegedly serviced Henley, and who claimed to have exclaimed during the act, "Oh, Don, you're the king!" and "Check me into the Hotel California!"
is first smitten with the '70s anthem while on holiday in Nepal, and hears
"Don speak to me. It was clear. I had to kill people." (At this
point, Nhar rushed out with a plastic crossbow). It was also Nhar's duty
to provide interpretive dance for the non-rhyming, autobiographical tunes
Flaubert spoke-sang, accompanying himself on squeezebox. There's even
an audience game where the winner gets a Belgian beer and their snapshot
taken on stage. And, yes, after a funny 55 minutes, you can leave.
California" defies description. New York's Richard Harrington and
Chris Kauffman present an odd, odd story with determined, dead pan delivery.
And it works. Yes, the tale of a Belgian mercenary who gives up his life
of killing for a life in the cabaret all thanks to Don Henley and
the song, "Hotel California" somehow works. It's one
of the best things at the Fringe truly strange and hilariously
absurd. Jennifer Weber
On paper, there's nothing funny about Hotel California.
It's a two-man show. One fellow, named Nhar, is a really good mime with a really bad voice. The other, Gustave Flaubert, is a really bad singer, a really bad musician and an even worse dancer.
As Gustave tells his life-story about growing up in Belgium, his trip to Nepal, his career as a freelance killer in Colombia and the pair of epiphanies he had listening to the Eagles' Hotel California on the radio Nhar illustrates with mime. He also serves as props master, sound and lighting tech and general flunky for Gustave's performance.
None of that may sound particularly funny. But this show is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
It's all in the delivery or lack thereof. Gustave (played by New York-based actor and director Richard Harrington) serves up a perfectly stone-faced diatribe. The impeccably dressed storyteller never so much as cracks a smile throughout even as he plays his tiny squeeze-box accordion for the third time (same four-line tune, different non-rhyming lyrics, once in Spanish).
Nhar (played by fellow New Yorker Chris Kauffman) is all wide-eyed servitude, taking care of Gustave's every need. Only once does he lose his head, when he becomes so overcome by the music that he takes off in a non-Gustave-sanctioned direction.
stuff. Diane Dakers
gets my vote for the show among shows. It was wildly funny, cosmically
intelligent and acted by two absolutely wonderful dramatists. Richard
Harrington and Chris Kauffman were worthy recipients of the only standing
ovation I saw all Fringe long. Truly unique and impressive in spirit and
presentation. Frank Peebles
funny about Belgians? Is it the clothes? The music? Waffles? Well, whatever
it is, Richard Harrington seems to have nailed it with his character,
Gustave Flaubert. Aided by his strange, Igor-like, clown sidekick, Nhar
(Chris Kauffman, whose raspy-voiced renditions of Blue Moon and Rocketman
get enormous laughs), Harrington's performance keeps audiences rolling
in the aisles. Peter Vesuwalla
Although it veers toward being too twee, this is still a charming little spoof. Richard Harrington stars as Gustave Flaubert, not the author of Madame Bovary but a rather boring Belgian whose career choice (soldier of fortune) is based in ethereal encounters with The Eagles' drummer Don Henley (thus the show's title, with the tune to be performed in hilariously bad deadpan).
is Nhar, a floundering assistant who opens the show with a deliberately
garbled rendition of Blue Moon and then spends his time falling
all over Flaubert. Why we'd be interested in this schlep's disjointed
nonsense, delivered in fractured English, is precisely what's so funny
about this homage to absurdism. Peter Birnie
This oddball comedy is one of those Fringe gems that makes you laugh without knowing quite why. It's so absurd, it defies description.
Hotel California features Richard Harrington as Gustave Flaubert, a Belgian mercenary-turned-cabaret-performer. Chris Kauffman is his sidekick, Nhar.
It's the story of how Gustave's life has been shaped by his all-time hero, Don Henley of the Eagles, and in particular, the classic '70's tune Hotel California. The tale unfolds through their attempt at putting on a cabaret show, which is unquestionably bad.
Nhar opens the show with an eccentric rendition of Blue Moon. His raspy voice is barely audible as he holds up the moon: a Styrofoam plate attached to a fork.
Gustave then makes his grand entrance, starting out with a weird tale about Henley's alleged penchant for prostitutes. He backtracks to his childhood days growing up with his best friends Jean-Paul and Paul-Pierre and then moves on to tell how he came to choose a career in killing. In between, there's a pop quiz with the prize of an imported beer. It all gets stranger from there.
Harrington is a top notch performer, his deadpan delivery bang-on. His character is exceptionally well-drawn, from his subtle mannerisms and little asides to his quirky accent that is reminiscent of Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau at times.
Kauffman's clownish character, who is mostly silent, moves the action along, adding laughs with his subtle physical comedy.
The show's finale is an absolute riot: Gustave sings a passionate version of the venerable Hotel California, complete with props and goofball dancing.
Check into the Hotel California early. It's sure to be a sellout. Jenny Gabruch