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And now for something completely different: N.C. State University Center Stage will present The Umbilical Brothers, two former Australian acting students who mix mime and monkey business for an evening of high-octane comedy, tonight at 8 p.m. in Stewart Theatre in NCSU's Talley Student Center in Raleigh, NC. David Collins and Shane Dundas, who made their New York debut Off Broadway in 1999 with Thwak, will repeat this cartoon come to life for Triangle audiences.
According to The Umbilical Brothers' web site (http://www.umbilicalbrothers.com/ [inactive 7/04]): "Thwak was the first Umbies show designed to be performed without translation in the USA, and the boys had an unforgettable year in downtown New York. All the gang were there — Action Guy, Crazy Monkey, The Bruce, Sound Man & Move Boy, The Klapp, The Nipplefondler and Mr Fluffy. Greenwich Village never had it so good."
In 1988 in Sydney, Australia, according to the Umbies' web site, "David and Shane meet in first year of acting school, where they are taught the foundations of modern performance: Lack of Confidence, Abject Poverty, and the power to break a man's nose with a single kick. The following three years result in Shakespeare, Chekhov, a broken nose and their unique fusion of juvenile insanity with comic and theatrical tradition. One day, deciding that the mime classes aren't loud enough, they create their very first Umbilical routine, a charming piece borne of youth and theatrical innocence that climaxes in the end of the world."
The rest, as they say, is history. First, The Umbilical Brothers conquered their native Australia with their wild and crazy mixture of mime and comedy.
The Australian described a typical Umbilical Brothers show as "an exquisitely crafted 1 1/2 hours of physical humour and sheer imaginative brilliance. Their loosely related series of physical sketches creates an endearing, child-like world where physical laws mean nothing and into which the audience is taken on a wildly tangential journey. Perhaps their most endearing feature, though, is a tongue-in-cheek attitude which takes none of their formidable skills to seriously."
In 1994, The Umbilical Brothers performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Herald of Scotland summed up a typical performance as follows: "It's like being sucked into a blockbuster movie starring Bruce Willis, Bruce Lee and Bluto — all of it miraculously created on stage by two skinny blokes in red singlets. I clapped till my hands exploded in a cascade of blood and bone-shards. Almost. See the Umbilicals and learn that an imaginatively propelled human body has no limits".
In 1995, The Umbilical Brothers performed at the London International Mime Festival, the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. In 1999, they successfully invaded the United States.
Entertainment Weekly Magazine says "Thwak is an ingeniously hyperactive mime-with sound-effects comedy... a Muppets-by-way-of-Tarantino skit."
The New York Times called The Umbilical Brothers "Wildly funny, wildly creative! A tightly scripted, technically impressive hour of inspired anarchy. Inspired anarchy by this pair of cartoon characters sprung to life! ... [P]sychic twins, joined in an irresistible conspiracy to commit comedy! ... [S]illy behavior of the highest caliber! Up to the minute tomfoolery in the new vaudeville tradition of thinking man's clowns. Like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd on the set of Terminator 3!"
The New York Daily News saluted Thwak as "A resounding success! This unique theatrical experience will have you howling with delight! It can only be described as a Nintendo game or 'Ren and Stimpy' cartoon come to life. These guys possess an uncanny knack for creating every sound effect imaginable. Their skills are vast. It's easy to see why they already have taken London, Hong Kong and Singapore by storm. This is mindless entertainment of the first magnitude!"
Time Out New York described Thwak as "Twisted, marvelously peculiar and absolutely hilarious! An uproarious fiesta of carefully choreographed mayhem. A carnival of outlandish fun! A hell of a good time!
Second Opinion: Raleigh, NC News & Observer staff writer Vicki Hyman's Preview: http://www.newsobserver.com/features/wup/story/3234904p-2893103c.html [inactive 5/04].
N.C. State University Center Stage presents The Umbilical Brothers Thursday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m. in Stewart Theatre in NCSU's Talley Student Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. $27 reserved seating and $22 general admission, except $13 students, $8 NCSU students, and $17.50 NCSU faculty/staff. (919) 515-1100. N.C. State University Center Stage: http://www7.acs.ncsu.edu/center_stage/. The Umbilical Brothers: http://www.umbilicalbrothers.com/ [inactive 7/04].