Off-Off-Broadway Review: “ChipandGus” at FringeNYC 2016 at WOW Café

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “ChipandGus” at FringeNYC 2016 at WOW Café (Closed Thursday August 25, 2016)
Written by and Directed by John Ahlin and Christopher Patrick Mullen
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The rapid fire repartee that bounces back and forth faster than the ping pong balls that fly through the air is the source of energy in “ChipandGus, the remarkable two-hander one act play presented as part of the N.Y. International Fringe Festival. It is a sort of a contemporary Gin Game on steroids with two unlikely characters in an unusual, mesmerizing relationship, getting pumped up in a lengthy one hundred minutes. It is an emotional, intellectual and physically challenging game where the stakes are high and a friendship is at risk. It is written by John Ahlin (Gus) and Christopher Patrick Mullen (Chip), who also credit themselves with the adroit direction. They are a perfect team, amiable opponents that manage to play with rather than against each other. Their chemistry is not an experiment but an explosion that can only be accomplished when combining two incredibly skilled actors together in a clever and precarious script.

Mr. Mullen’s lean frame moves with an almost psychotic bravura that conceals Chip’s damaged and deflated ego. He creates a character that merely simmers with frailty and vulnerability until he allows it to erupt to the surface. Mr. Ahlin’s large and dominant presence concedes to expose a cuddly teddy bear, sensitive, articulate and caring but emotionally wounded retreating within merely to protect himself. Chip, a musician and Gus a philosophy professor manage to create a complex human symphony with mellow, striking and bombastic movements that support the recurring theme of an endearing friendship. They are a pleasure to watch and intriguing to hear.

If there is any constructive criticism it would be in reference to the length of the piece and the constant repetitious pace and style of the dialogue. Perhaps this is intentional to concur with the structure of the ping pong game, but nonetheless it becomes a bit tiring way before game point. Most of the verbal sparring is subsidiary to plot development even though it provides a few good laughs.

Take a break from your summer routine and stop by the back game room of a run- down neighborhood bar to realize it is not about winning as long as you are in the game, and more important, not so much about the story but how you tell it. Chip and Gus are in the game, play it well and both come up winners.