Thwak (Off Broadway)
The Australian comedy duo, the Umbilical Brothers, with their evening of physical comedy and self-produced sound effects, made their New York debut in THWAK when it started previews March 4, opened on March 18, and ran until May 9, 1999 at Off-Off Broadway’s Westbeth Theatre Center. THWAK then transferred to Off Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre to open on June 6, 1999 and ran for a further 206 performances until January 2, 2000.
Australian writer/performers Shane Dundas and David Collins aka The Umbilical Brothers, served up a subversive funhouse of human animation, skewering pop culture along the way was Directed by Philip W.M. McKinley, Set Design by Bradley J. Mayer, Lighting Design by Josh Monroe and Sound Design by Ray Schilke.
Produced by John Bard Manulis, Arnold Engelman, Metropolitan Entertainment Group (John Scher & Jeff Rowland) and Liz Heller. Press Representative Cromarty & Co, and Online Marketing by Toby Simkin.
Inspired by cartoons and the movies, THWAK combines physical feats of agility, remarkably accurate aural imitations, and a healthy dose of humor to create a series of set-ups, each more surreal than the last. Using mime, precision lip-synching, uncanny sound effects, pratfalls, high-speed chases, and hand puppets, the duo soar though a raucous hour and a half of comic mayhem. An invisible dog plays catch with an invisible hand grenade (not to worry, the imaginary dog is unharmed, but cleverly replaced by a fake imaginary dog).
Audiences take an audio tour through the intestinal, pulmonary, and cardiac sounds of Collins’ body and the paranoid turmoil of his brain. A battle with a persistent housefly becomes a kung-fu extravaganza worthy of Jackie Chan. Cowboys lose their mounts and Kermit the Frog gets sautéed for dinner. And somehow, in THWAK’s mad world, it all makes sense.
The lovely and generous Umbilical Brothers (Shane Dundas and David Collins) also helped me re-brand one of my Broadway companies at the Minskoff Theatre.
As Founder and CEO of Theatre.com and BuyBroadway.com. The pioneer in moving the Broadway industry onto the internet. The theatre press branded me as “Toby is the man pushing theatre, kicking and screaming, into cyberspace.” What started in 1989 as a Broadway industry service called ShowCall via dialup BBS for members of the League of American Theatre Producers evolved onto the world wide web in the early 90’s, and shortly after this, the vast majority of Broadway shows (starting with my production of Victor/Victoria) and theatrical organizations followed. The “Super site of Broadway” became a publicly traded company, prior to my re-branding it as Theatre.com at the Minskoff Theatre.
Described by Variety Magazine as a “marketing powerhouse“, it was the single largest theatre community in the world with over 180,000 active members (in the 1990’s this was massive). From buying official Broadway tickets and souvenirs, providing detailed global show listings, interactive show study & educational guides, live streaming shows and events (including many Opening Nights live broadcasts), industry news from major theatre journalists, pictures and videos, games, messaging directly to Broadway cast’s backstage or even licensing a musical, theatre.com offered it all in a single, easy-to-use interface to theatregoers globally.
by Simon Saltzman
U.S. 1 Newspaper
August 11, 1999.
You may not have an easy time finding the word onomatopoeia in the dictionary — especially if you can’t spell it. You probably won’t find the word “Thwak” in the dictionary either, although it is easy to spell, and, of course, it’s spelled exactly the way you would think it would be spelled if you could hear the thing it was spelling. With that said, let it be said that there is a lot of onomatopoeia in action in the show “Thwak,” a fast, furious, and funny family entertainment of sights, sounds, and silly behavior. The perpetrators are “The Umbilical Brothers,” Shane Dundas and David Collins, a zany pair of native Australians who prove that they are more than just observant fans of high-tech gadgetry and old-fashioned tomfoolery.
Together they create a world in which classic mime and motor-mouthed vocals hilariously collide. Best of all, Dundas and Collins are informed by their own madcap sense of juvenile-based satire. There is too much cartoon-like sturm und drang to go into the details of their performance, as they appear to be in perpetual hot pursuit of or escape from each other and other things. But suffice it to say that Dundas makes more of the blasts while Collins is busy with the buffoonery. Only time will tell whether Dundas and Collins will achieve the classic status of such renowned comedy teams as Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello, but they have brought the old crash, slam, bang, comedy routines into the high-tech era. After the show, you may ask yourself what in the world did director Philip Wm. McKinley have to do to keep this inventive, incorrigible, and apparently invincible pair from self-destructing. It’s a blast from first to last.
Thwak, Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, New York.
$25 to $45. 212-307-4100.