Cyclists can get laughs out of ‘The Bicycle Men’

Musical comedy will be timely for Pro Challenge

John Rubano plays “L’homme de Bicyclette,” or “God of Bicycles,” among many other roles in “The Bicycle Men” this week at Durango Arts Center. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of John Rubano

John Rubano plays “L’homme de Bicyclette,” or “God of Bicycles,” among many other roles in “The Bicycle Men” this week at Durango Arts Center.

I bring you this review with an important caveat: I have not seen “The Bicycle Men.”

Nevertheless, I am as confident in my recommendation as one can be after watching a few YouTube clips and speaking with one of the show’s co-writers and stars.

It also helps that John Rubano is a Hollywood veteran with a solid résumé and he wrote “The Bicycle Men” with a few of his Second City buddies from Chicago about eight years ago.

Now living in Durango, Rubano is a avid cyclist and thought the play would be perfect for the crowds coming to town for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

“We were all sick and tired of doing other people’s stuff because most of the time it’s horrible and we didn’t find it to be funny,” Rubano said.

The story is a twisted one, which is why I think I like it whether I’ve seen it or not. It’s also not a family show, with lots of adult language and situations, further piquing my juvenile yet comically sophisticated curiosity. It begins with an American named Steve (played by Derek Manson), riding his bike through France, who stops in a quaint village for repairs. Rubano, co-writer Joe Liss and Bruce Green round out the cast and each play multiple roles.

Each role represents someone who impedes or delays Steve’s stay in the village through a comedy of errors and intentional hijinks.

They play puppets in a marionette show which turns out to be an integral component to the denouement, as well as bike-shop employees, waiters and even actors in a “film within a play” that is eerily reminiscent of the Martin and Lewis movies that are so anecdotally popular with the French.

It’s also a musical, with co-creator Mark Nutter writing all of the music and occasionally bawdy lyrics. For the Durango performance, Ryan McCurry will provide piano accompaniment.

“The Bicycle Men” has its own list of accolades and doesn’t need my stamp of approval.

The play won the top prize in the 2004 New York Fringe Festival and has been performed in Los Angeles (two runs), London, Edinburgh, San Francisco and Chicago. For the London run, the cast added a bolt of star power as Dan Castellaneta – voice of Homer Simpson – playing the role of Steve.

If it’s good enough for Homer, it’s good enough for me. This is the perfect show to entertain this week’s bike-crazy crowds, although our guests from France might not always laugh along.