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Triple Espresso, a highly caffeinated comedy

a Comedy Variety Show
by Bill Arnold, Michael Pearce Donley & Bob Stromberg

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 2742

SHOWING : March 27, 2008 - April 20, 2008



Put together 3 guys, a coffee house, a lack of common sense, music, comedy, and a whole lot of zany ... and you have "Triple Espresso." This one of a kind romp is currently in its 12th year of production in Minneapolis, and just completed a record-breaking run in San Diego. Now metro Atlanta can celebrate being added to the list of hit productions!

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Wasting Away Again in Cappucchinoville
by Dedalus
Friday, April 25, 2008
Don’t you just hate it when you’re out of step with an audience? That was my feeling watching “Triple Espresso,” a supposedly high-energy “caffeinated comedy” imported by Georgia Ensemble. The (admittedly tiny) audience I was with was laughing hysterically and jumping to their feet at the end, but after a promising beginning, all I could do was gape at the stage and wonder, “Can it get any worse?” (For the record, a few good bits at the end saved the show from descending into “Menopause” territory.)

“Triple Espresso” belongs to that sub-genre of theatre that originates “in the regions,” passes by Broadway, and develops a strong, (and long-lasting) word-of-mouth following. These shows are admittedly “critic-proof” (and, indeed, by the time you read this, this show will have packed up and moved on to its next venue), relying on weekend group crowds and repeat viewings for their success. “Shear Madness” and “Menopause” both fall into this category, and, admittedly, I’ve had little patience for any of those I’ve seen.

I liked how “Triple Espresso” began -- Dane Stauffer takes the stage as “Hugh Butternut,” the headliner at “Roswell’s Best Coffee House,” for his 20th-Anniversary gig. He is soon joined by Bobby Bean (an irritating Duane Daniels, who’s a lot less funny than he thinks he is) and a dour Buzz Maxwell (Patrick Albanese), former partners in what was once a very unsuccessful trio (although it’s not clear if they were singers, comedians, or just three guys who shared a stage once upon a time). The group toured “the provinces,” playing Industrial Shows, State Fairs, Kiwanis Clubs, and other similar venues until circumstance (and their contrived personality conflicts) drove them apart. Now, they’re reuniting for the sole purpose of torturing us with their dull history and their pointless bickering.

I was enjoying it well enough for a while. The parody was amusing (even though this sort of “lounge entertainment” is easy pickings for parody), reactions were funny and unexpected, and their use of the audience as "props” worked (up to a point). Sure, the early ‘70’s “sing-a-long” section went on a bit too long, but not past its welcome. Sure, comedy based on Talentless Performers has a short shelf-life, but, here, the awfulness seems to find diverse (if not novel) ways of espressing itself.

But then, they came to a bit in which Hugh enters a classical piano competition supposedly judged by Roddy McDowell. For some reason, Bobby thought it would be a good idea to make ape faces throughout. This had to be the most singularly unfunny, overlong, and painful sequence I’ve seen in years. The sad thing is that Mr. Stauffer is actually a good pianist (a little less talent here may have made the scene work), and the distraction of Mr. Daniels’ mugging made a badly conceived bit even worse.

Act Two starts a bit more promisingly, as Mr. Stauffer again takes the piano to play requests from the audience (in, of course, that pompous lounge-lizard style that’s so much fun to make fun of). But, when the others join him, the show freefalls into the Unfunny Zone again. A segment set in Zaire couldn’t have been more offensive and unfunny if it had been done in blackface. (Note to the show creators – I know we’re only rubes in the provinces, but some of us know that “Swahili” is not a language of Central Africa and we know it does not consist of gibberish interspersed with tongue clicks. Condescending to us just makes us bitter.) A pointless nightmare sequence drags down the pace even further. (The Three Stooges in slow motion with a Vangelis soundtrack – This is a good idea?)

Surprisingly, a saving grace (and supreme irony) comes at the end. A recurring plot point is that Buzz was alienated from the group after an embarrassing debacle on the Mike Douglas Show. When we finally see it, it’s one of the funniest and most inspired sequences we’ve seen all night (think “Spot the Willie” from the British Game Show Hall of Shame). It’s hardly credible that this bit was done “without rehearsal” or that Buzz sees it as a source of humiliation, but, at least it provides some needed belly laughs at this point in the show. Of course, the show then moves on to a contrived and painfully schmaltzy ending that I’d rather just forget.

There are some sorta-kinda okay bits – a shadow puppet sequence that’s funny (maybe because we’re spared Mr. Daniels’ mugging face for it), some magic tricks that have some kick (although too many them go through a too-long set-up for a bad-joke pay-off), and a few surprises that were borne of actual improv reactions. But, I found too much of the humor lowest-common-denominator stuff, too many of the sequences badly conceived and executed, too much of the pacing slow and “uncaffeinated,” and too much of the parody easy and dull.

So, what am I missing that most of the show’s audiences are enjoying? I have no idea. It may be that I’ve heard too many of the jokes too many times for too many years. It may be that I have seen (and enjoyed) too many improv shows that were fresh and alive (this one seems to me to have fallen into that stale we’ve-done-this-for-too-many-years zone). It may be that I’ve never really liked the kind of entertainment this show pays homage to and parodies. Or, it may simply be that I never got the taste for coffee and don’t understand its appeal.

Just know that my non-reaction is atypical, and my non-laughter was a minority response. From the program, we learn that “In the past 11 years, the international phenomenon of “Triple Espresso” has entertained almost 2 million people in 40 cities in 6 countries. Finally it is here.”

And, thankfully, it has now left.

-- Brad Rudy (

You hit the nail... by stancial
I couldn't agree more. Stale bits, sterotypical characters and a lack of creativity added up to a very dull evening. I can recall doing the closing bit at a vaudeville theatre 25 years ago.

I too wonder what I am missing when I sit in the middle of a crowd screaming with approval at shows like this and Menopause. I love good and clever parodies (give me an Allen Sherman or Tom Lehrer song any day of the week), but the key is "good and clever," neither of which applies to these shows. I wish I was enjoying myself as much as other audience members, I really do! But I just can't work up a chuckle for the fifth hot flash reference in the last ten minutes or another rerun of the lounge lizard that knows every bad song from the 70s.

I'd love to hear what others find so entertaining in these types of shows. Help me, educate me, show me how to appreciate the jokes and join in the laughter!
Make it decaf by Uber Showman
This comment is a little late, but...I had the (unpleasant) experience of seeing this show in San Diego shen I lived there, and Brad, you could NOT have been more on target with your comments! Duane Daniels and Dane Stauffer have been in the SD Company for more years than any one actor should play any role.
And if you thought Daniels was irritating ONSTAGE, he is even more ego-maniacal off.


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