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The Mountain – at Mount Vernon Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW

Remaining Performances:

Friday, July 22nd, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 23rd, 7:30 p.m.

Running Time: 70 minutes

They say: “Rob and Flick aka ‘Assembly Required,’ the edu-tainers and self-proclaimed artistic geniuses behind last year’s hit shlecture (that’s a show lecture) about musicals return with a new assembly that will teach you everything you need to know about comedy.”

Derek’s Take: At the supernova start of Assembly Required, Joshua Morgan hops onto Brian Sutow‘s back and then scrambles beneath his outstretched arm, as if he’s a teat-seeking monkey infant. So cute, but… something doesn’t seem quite right about that throbbing house music. In another moment he’s cradling Rob’s torso like an inverted tortoise shell, forming a layer of homoerotic kevlar, and by the time they fall to the floor in an embrace worthy of Boogie Nights, a wave of barely-contained anarchy floods the theater. Is that nervous laughter I hear? Not quite, but you get the sense that Rob (Sutow) and Flick (Morgan) would prefer it that way in this raucous and raunchy free-for-all that feels as though it’s always about to come unhinged.

The object, here, is a lesson on the dos and don’ts of comedy. C-O-M-E-D-Y for you prisoners and, one hopes, high school seniors in the captive, attendance-mandatory crowd of Morgan and Sutow’s collective imagination. As a pair of “enter-teachers” dressed in track suits filched from a gangland surplus warehouse, they conjure visions of a misanthropic Richard Simmons and Tom Hanks pulled from a 1980s time warp and thrust onto a vaudevillian stage. The show’s a grab-bag of amusing and often clever slapstick, audio/visual, audience participation, and dance and musical elements that almost always hit their comic marks if failing to serve any discernible storyline. This despite the claim, however facetious, that comedy is at essence the answer to a very simple question: “Why?”

But if you want plot, come back to the Mountain for Sunday service; the closest thing Rob and Flick manage here is a running gag, a contest of sorts, on who can pull off the greater number of practical jokes on the other during the performance. The battle begins with grade school pranks – atomic wedgies, whoopie cushions – but soon escalates into Tarantino-inspired mayhem, with each success accompanied by a hilarious song-and-dance number from the Kid ‘n Play handbook and a tally on a nearby whiteboard. “Prac-ti-cal…” (Music! Dance!) “Joke!” It’ll make you want to go home and smash your roommate with a chair.

Sutow’s script and Isaac Klein’s direction leave the impression that the show is being made up as it goes along, but in fact it’s a tight production that wilts only during the too-long and sluggish tutorial on improv comedy. (Ironically, the show relies on a significant amount of improvised, slightly confrontational, back-and-forth with the audience that’s lively and inspired by comparison.) But from there the ambiguously gay duo quickly rebuilds momentum, careening through sequences featuring rubber chickens and dicks, shirtless muffin-top dances, and the production’s coup de grace, a gratuitous striptease that, somehow, seems inevitable. The only wonder is that, for a show with its tongue so-far-in-cheek, they didn’t include a segment on blow-job pantomime. Maybe next year.

Both Morgan and Sutow maintain incredible energy throughout, selling the zaniness as only two comedy-obsessed hucksters can. I can imagine them helping the Department of Homeland Security conduct citizenship readiness seminars, as if to say, “Hey, green card holders – you sure you want to sign up for this?” Odds are, those misty-eyed immigrants will answer with a resounding “Yes!” Nothing, after all, is more American than the dumb yet inspired fun of Assembly Required.

See it if: Your prescription for Paxil has lapsed and you need a guaranteed pick-me-up.

Skip it if: If your health plan doesn’t cover ailments caused by contact with sweaty ass cheeks.