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Triple Espresso

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TRIPLE ESPRESSO, at the Mercury Theater. The trio of talented vaudevillians in Triple Espresso come perilously close to turning into the same sort of bland, wholesome entertainment they seek to satirize--the acts employed to liven up trade shows, conventions, and Elks Club meetings. Unwilling or unable to succeed as a legitimate variety act, singer-pianist Michael Pearce Donley, magician Bill Arnold, and guitar-strumming mime Bob Stromberg do the next best thing by playing an inept act that never had what it took to make it big.

As lounge lizard Hugh Butternut, Donley ably tickles the ivories, mugs like Kermit the Frog, and croons unctuous versions of "I Write the Songs" and "Muskrat Love." The supple-bodied, rubber-necked Stromberg plays Bobby Bean, a spotlight-craving imp who got his start leading hootenanny versions of folk standards like "Home on the Range." And as Buzz Maxwell the deadpan Arnold, who brings to mind a young Dick Cavett, provides the show's wittiest and most engaging moments with some familiar but cleverly executed legerdemain.

Amibition is not the watchword here: imagine the tamest, most sanitized Smothers Brothers routine. These Minnesota-based performers are certainly gifted, and there are more than a few cute moments. But the material is too predictable and the laughs too cheap to sustain interest for more than two hours without the aid of caffeinated beverages.

--Adam Langer

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