ArtsATL > Theater > Review: “The Revengence” delivers high-adrenaline comedic thrill ride at Dad’s Garage

Review: “The Revengence” delivers high-adrenaline comedic thrill ride at Dad’s Garage

Kevin Gillese (left) and Dan Triandiflou in "The Revengence." (Photo by Linnea Frye)

“We’re not just gonna let you walk out of here,” Clint Eastwood as Detective Harry Callahan tells an armed robber in “Sudden Impact,” from 1983. When the gun thug asks, “Who’s we?,” Eastwood replies, “Smith, Wesson … and me,” while pulling out his .44 Magnum.

If Clint Eastwood can refer to himself in the plural in the fourth “Dirty Harry” movie, it seems only fair that Kevin Gillese and Dan Triandiflou can speak for at least a dozen characters apiece in “The Revengeance,” playing at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company through August 11. A wide-ranging spoof that primarily targets shoot-’em-up action movies, “The Revengence” showcases a pair of hilarious, hyperactive actors of unusually high, uh, caliber.

The production originated with “Scratch,” an improvisational format developed by Arlen Konopaki and Gillese before the latter became Dad’s Garage artistic director. “The Revengence” relies on a more scripted structure, but it gives its two performers an exhaustingly funny workout. It doesn’t qualify as a “quick change” performance, because they never change out of their dark business suits. By the end, however, they’re dressed primarily in sweat, with jackets off and shirts unbuttoned.

Gillese plays Jason Block, a macho, bigoted, possibly deranged New York City police detective who’s chewed out by the police chief (Triandiflou) in the opening scene. Block’s outrageously destructive brand of police work earns him a suspension, and he intends to spend the time off renewing ties with his loving son (Triandiflou again). Over the course of the day, Block keeps shifting his focus to drug pushers, kidnappers and other scumbags, all employed by an unseen underworld kingpin called Cyrus the Virus. It’s not a coincidence that the villain’s name contains a “Con Air” reference.

The play’s handling of flashbacks conveys a little of its gymnastic approach to comedy. A character will mention a past event, Gillese and Triandiflou will leap up and spin in the air, and when they land, they’re in the past. One of the most hilarious scenes has Block recall how he became a hero for foiling “The Great Muppet Capper,” and the action flashes back to muppets perpetrating not a whimsical heist but a bank robbery-turned-bloodbath a la Michael Mann’s “Heat.”

The action intercuts among multiple plot threads. Block’s eighth-grade son finds an unexpected friend in the guise of a robot (Gillese) whose loose approach to morality evokes Bender from “Futurama.” Meanwhile, on the ocean, the captain (Triandiflou) of a sunken cruise ship shares a lifeboat with a father-to-be (Gillese) who questions whether he’s ready for fatherhood. On land, the castaway’s pregnant wife (Gillese) fends off the amorous advances of an iconic A-list character actor. “The Revengeance” culminates with an exciting “montage” of the four storylines.

In her program notes, director Alison Hastings writes, “I wanted to push the cast beyond what they thought was possible within a one-hour show,” and clearly Gillese and Triandiflou rise to the challenge. Their characters have such distinctive quirks that they sometimes switch off whom they play — occasionally Triandiflou, not Gillese, will do Block, for instance — but so seamlessly that it’s not confusing. If anything, such moments are like seeing a pair of professional athletes pass the ball back and forth, one in perfect harmony with the other. Triandiflou has a particular gift for shifting gears, capable of going from preposterously manic to serenely still within seconds. The two even pre-recorded the play’s sound effects and other audio cues, so that when Gillese paddles the lifeboat, you hear one of them over the speakers pronounce “splash, splash.”

As a go-for-broke two-man-show at Dad’s Garage, “The Revengence” rivals George Faughnan’s and John Gregorio’s memorable take in the quick-change gothic satire “The Mystery of Irma Vep” in the late 1990s.

“The Revengence” relies on a nonsensical story with jokes that tend to be in appalling taste, including multiple gags involving childbirth, oral sex and variations on a certain vulgar phrase. At times some improvised shtick will lead to a dead end, but it’s consistently funny and knows not to overstay its welcome. And despite its “Naked Gun” level of ridiculousness, “The Revengence” contains a hint of a smidgen of a serious theme, as most of the hare-brained heroes wrestle with loneliness and the need for love. Amid the fake gunshots, typhoons and ninja fights, the characters make connections to unlikely partners, ranging from a cab driver to an android, and even one of the stars of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

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