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COMEDY REVIEW : Pilmark and Pallesen as Duo Danish Hams

December 12, 1987|LAWRENCE CHRISTON | Times Staff Writer

In the course of their duo piano concert, among other shenanigans, Per Pallesen and Soren Pilmark--two Danes who are making their American debut at the Westwood Playhouse--use banjos, ukuleles, nose harps, falsetto voices, dynamite, an air pump, piano lids, piano strings and their trouser zippers.

The Pallesen and Pilmark Show is impeccably polished, and anyone in search of an unusual family holiday show is well advised to take it in. The two milk the duo piano concert setting to its utmost, but there's not much heat to their comedic light. Their opening consists of two formally attired concert pianists (Pallesen is in his graying mid-40s, Pilmark a blond, impish stripling 20 years his junior) who can't decide whose stool belongs to whom.

Much is made of the confusion between who will sit where, and who will play what, though their playing is minimal--there's no gorgeous Victor Borge payoff here--and when it does take place, it's in the service of songs such as "Side by Side," "Harvest Moon" or a lick from "Aida" poured into a jazz rhythm. Their unfortunate choice of old chestnuts is one of the sources of their undoing--at least in the face of a media-overexposed American audience.

Pallesen and Pilmark go on to explore the comedic possibilities of each moment of their act, including a few magic tricks and a shocked reaction to twin pianos that get into it on their own by opening their lids and emitting gross tuba tones (three upstage musicians, Gert Rostock, Paul Godske and Svend Erik Norgaard, move things along while Pallesen and Pilmark are at the microphone).

The more demanding visitor will soon tire of how small Pallesen and Pilmark's moments are, however. In traveling the world, their act has taken on the hermetic quality of not quite belonging anywhere. Their characters aren't sharply contrasted; much of their material is frankly corny, and they don't have the redemptive wit and skill of their countryman Borge to make an occasion of their evening.

All great or even good theater consists of the feeling that a door has closed behind a group of momentary intimates--all of us alone together. The discipline of Pallesen and Pilmark is a welcome contrast to the dreariness of most American comedians schooled in the slop of doing their own thing. But there's no denying a certain self-satisfied provincialism on their part just the same. There's a difference between the mystery and the trick, the performer and the stooge, and they haven't figured it out.

At the bottom of their publicity flyer is the line "Official Carrier SAS. All Business Is Show Business." It's the most provocative thought of their appearance.

Final performance tonight at 8 at 10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood, (213) 208-5454.

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