What is it? A dynamic duo that meshes dance, comedy, and singing into orchestrated, impressively fluid, vignettes.
Why see it? These two guys have been touring the country and seducing critics almost everywhere. Their unique brand of comedic theater has a frenetic pace and unrelenting wit, a combination that, depending on your emotional balance, might make you laugh or make you cry. One thing’s for certain: an idiosyncratic performance that’s a little left of left field.
Who should go? Precocious, drama-prone teenagers. Economics professors. Short order cooks with a tendency to snarl. Whip-smart grandmas and stoned undergrads. Anyone else willing to slip under the spell of live, offbeat entertainment.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 • 1 hour • June 3 at 7:30 p.m.; June 4 at 3 p.m.; June 5 at 8 p.m.; June 6 at 6 p.m.; June 7 at 5 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. •
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Cody Rivers Show bedazzles brains and tickles funny bones
A force more elusive than oil drives The Cody Rivers Show.
Those in possession may attribute their gifts to God. Others reference luck or genetic superiority. No matter the rationale, intelligence and physical dexterity are the golden eggs of entertainment. And judging from what we’ve heard, The Cody Rivers Show has arrived from one special goose.
The show’s writers and performers are Andrew Connor and Mike Mathieu. They have come to Charleston from Bellingham, Wash., where they regularly perform at the iDiOM Theater. Their show combines traditional concepts of song, dance, pantomime, narrative, and theatrics. But once onstage, these two seemingly bookish types smash tradition and explode into a frenzy of articulated
Describing Cody Rivers is difficult. Not only does it often change, but as far as we can tell, the show revolves around a series of vignettes that combine to form a smorgasbord of dancing bears, giant inflatable balls, lots of wigs, high-stepping pyrotechnics, and a closet full of costumes.
The narrative, shrouded by their Northwestern minds, becomes clear only after the audience is seated. The setting appears simple. Perhaps a few props adorn the stage, and the theme explores Mathieu’s and Connor’s ability to inhabit their unique blend of ideas.
This combination results in enough praise to inflate even the most sodden ego. But the guys remain focused. They conceive, they perform, they move on. And then they do it all again.
“We don’t write jokes, really,” Mathieu says. “We make bold and unusual performance choices, which make the audience curious.”
Cody Rivers is precisely choreographed. Whereas other sketch comedy groups might arrive on stage with a concept or idea, and then run with it, this pair predefines their purpose but leaves room for improvisation.
“We leave some scenes unwritten,” Mathieu says. “Audience interaction keeps us on our toes. And the spontaneity contrasts well with the tight choreography of the rest of the show.”
It sounds willy-nilly but it’s actually methodical. That’s how professionals operate. They make a strenuous task look casual and, in the process, drop jokes into our bedazzled brains.
“You must thoroughly, and without compromise, entertain yourself and the audience at the same time,” Mathieu says. “Given our synchronicity, and the kind of left-field content and characters we like, I think audiences walk away thinking, ‘Those guys practice a lot, don’t watch TV, and would make a good impression on my parents.'”
Cody Rivers invests in originality. They know what they like and what they don’t like. Their ambition is in that challenge, and the challenge is maintaining a level of innovation crowded with other performance acts.
“We value originality almost above everything else,” Mathieu says. “What we see inspires us to be different.”
Still, with so much performance art, influence for The Cody Rivers Show must be found somewhere.
“We do our own pantomime and physical fireworks,” Mathieu says.
“But if there’s one exception it’s ‘The Pajama Men’ [a manic two-person comedy]. They made me think there’s got to be a way for us to do something similar without plagiarizing. I wanted to embrace elements of their writing, stage presence, and physicality.”
Critical buzz for Cody Rivers has included words like “genius,” “brilliant,” “charming and breathtaking.”
Mathieu’s response to such accolades is gratitude.
“Of course we think they’re geniuses if they are calling us geniuses,” he says. “But overuse of a specific word atrophies meaning. I think ‘awesome’ is a notable victim of that. Awe is a pretty great concept. But I guess nowadays the best way to express awe is to be speechless.”