By Hailey Nuthals, Arts Editor
“New Canula” sums itself up as “an original unromantic feel good dramedy;” a two-man show with two men who were destined to be cowboys but somehow ended up as the furthest things from it – a suicidal accountant and a low-level engineer-turned-bank-robber. The piece is written by Gary Cremeans II, who also plays J. Dubbs, our unfortunate accountant.
The setup is a comfortingly familiar one, while retaining the originality it claims – J. Dubbs opens the show, assembling his tools to take his own life, resignedly slipping on a noose and opening up a copy of “Dying With Dignity.” (It’s rather clear what his evening plans are.) But with a crash, in comes “Bull,” (David Simpson). He’s just robbed a bank and needs a place to hide out, and if he has to brandish his gun in J. Dubb’s innocently eager face all night, by gosh, he’ll do it.
To his surprise, Bull’s threats don’t faze but rather excite J. Dubbs, who enthusiastically asks for the death Bull offers. J. Dubbs, we learn, has just lost his grandmother Betty – his lifelong guide, source of catchphrases and the woman who raised him. As a beaten-down, hapless, less-than-impressive soul, this was his last straw. He’s hoping to follow Grandma Betty to “New Canula,” the sort of hallucinatory heaven she promised him she was going to when she died.
As it happens, Bull hasn’t had the best time of it either. Laid off as an engineer during the market crash of 2008, he took up bank robbing, with only moderate success. He’s on the brink of getting himself in trouble with some real baddies. Between the two of them, our lads can’t manage to find a single happy thing about either of their own predicaments.
Between practically endless sayings of Grandma Betty’s and bluffs of murder, the fellows find an unlikely sort of companionship. The show manages to strike a solid balance between real, unglamorous depression, wry irony and simple humor. For all that the course of the plot is predictable from an early point, this doesn’t take away from the show. “New Canula” manages very easily to be a good steady chuckle all the way through, never getting so dark that the audience loses its hope but for than one small instant. It draws easy smiles, and strums resonant strings in its audience’s hearts.
Cremeans II has managed to create a wonderfully enjoyable show. It is no “high art,” but no less important for it. The practice of comedy and entertainment is no easy one, and he has created a piece that is without any true fault. For a good laugh, and a heartfelt, sympathetic smile, “New Canula” is your best bet.
“New Canula” premiered as part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival.