Review: Rhys Darby at Doris Duke Theatre
REVIEW BY JACQUELYN CARBERRY / firstname.lastname@example.org
If raucous laughter is a sign of a good show, it’s safe to say comedian Rhys Darby put on a good show Tuesday night, Jan. 28, at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre. In fact, it might be an understatement.
The audience laughed energetically from the start of Darby’s routine to its finish, readily embracing stories told in his lively, highly animated way.
It was a good-sized, well-heeled crowd for a Tuesday night, and many seemed familiar with his routine from the get-go. They were also appreciative enough to give Darby a standing ovation at the end of his hour and a half routine.
The New Zealand native, who is something of a celebrity in his own country, might be best known to American audiences as Murray Hewitt, bumbling band manager on HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords.”
But if you’re expecting Darby to be anything like the character he played on the TV show, you might reconsider. Hewitt, whom Darby played on the show that ran from 2007 to 2009, is a far milder extension of Darby’s on-stage persona. Think of Murray — who is not exactly the shy, retiring type — turned up about 10 notches, and you get a sense of Darby’s energy level, which nearly crackles on stage.
Darby’s routine is not of the observational sort, but is comprised mainly of his reactions in various circumstances: Darby mixing with bikers while riding a moped on vacation in Hawaii; Darby cheering on fellow countrymen in embarrassingly lame sporting events at the London Olympics; and so on.
Darby is an excellent performer with a polished routine; he’s equal parts entertainer, comedian and story-teller. He often recreates situations for his audience, playing multiple characters holding a conversation. He leads people through a story not only through words and body language, but also sound effects — something which he seems to pride himself on.
A particularly warm, sentimental moment happened when Darby shared a story about playing “War” with fellow neighborhood children. He, well, outgunned them with his machine-gun-style sound effects.
You never really get to know what Darby is thinking: He doesn’t express his personal views much and his stories don’t run too deep. But he is a smart, smart man, and a spontaneous performer. One gets the sense the wheels are always turning behind his wild, bulging eyes and maniacal grin that punctuates the end of a joke.
His is a very physical performance, in which Darby uses not only his voice, but his entire body, arms waving wildly, as he pantomimes pick-pocketers; creeping home after a late night out; and robots. Yes, robots.
Something that admirably sets Darby apart is how he tailored the first half of his show for a Hawaii audience, recounting adventures he and his wife have had so far while in town. Much of his act is also off-the-cuff; Tuesday’s opening was done on the fly. Darby wandered around the stage and used props such as a chair, curtain and podium in building jokes for his audience.
Darby is very likeable, with a fairly clean-cut performance that’s actually pretty warm and friendly. Stories routinely end with curse words, but it’s done out of expressiveness rather than for shock value.
He seemed to enjoy his own routine, too, often breaking into out into a smile, as if he wasn’t taking himself too seriously on stage.