‘Oh, Hello on Broadway’ reviews: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney lovingly skewer New York

“Oh, Hello on Broadway,” a new stage play starring Nick Kroll and John Mulaney as their sketch comedy characters Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland respectively, recently opened on Broadway to generally positive reviews from critics. This loosely scripted show centers on a performance of a play written by St. Geegland, in which his and Faizon’s “characters” must find a way to come up with thousands of dollars a month in order to continue living in their previously rent-controlled apartment. Throughout the show-within-a-show, St. Geegland and Faizon often break the fourth wall, lamenting their mistakes or interjecting with non-sequiturs.

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Many critics championing the show love its rapid-fire humor and meta-theatricality. Ben Brantley (New York Times) deems the show “stupendously entertaining,” lauding it because it “exhales the transporting joy of actors’ becoming someone else so completely and infectiously.” Similarly, Steven Suskin (Huffington Post) raves about the “hilarious insanity and insane hilarity” of the “sublime” play, calling Kroll and Mulaney’s characterizations “inspired.”

Not all of the reviews were as favorable, though. While Jesse Green (Vulture) praises the “exemplary verbal polish of the scripted material,” he finds the play to be a combination of “delightful and shaggy, pointed and unmemorable,” with improvised material that “sometimes fizzles.” Marilyn Stasio (Variety) similarly characterizes the “sloppy, silly, occasionally inspired” show as a mixed bag, applauding the insightful jokes about New York’s Upper West Side, but tiring of some of the overwrought running gags.

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Despite the largely favorable response of critics, “Oh, Hello” might struggle to break through at the Tony Awards. In recent memory, few purely comedic plays have earned a Best Play nomination. While shows with laughs like “Hand to God” (2015) and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (2013) both reaped bids, with the latter winning this top Tony, but they also had a serious dose of dramatic and emotional substance.

Kroll and Mulaney will also likely sit out of the Best Actor race, not only because the category skews more toward dramatic performances, with the recent notable exception of James Corden’s Tony-winning role in “One Man, Two Guvnors” (2012), but also because they’re so inseparable as a duo that it will be hard to envision a Tony nominator favoring one over the other or voting for both in such a crowded season of performances in plays and revivals.

The show’s best chance at a major nomination will be in the Best Direction of a Play category. Director Alex Timbers, a two-time Tony nominee for his direction of “Peter and the Starcatcher” (2012) and his book for musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (2011), received much kudos for his deft hand in pacing such a unique stage play. Three-time Tony-winner Scott Pask’s scenic design also received good notices, but the set, which is a jumble of set pieces from previous Broadway productions and television shows, seems more whimsical than impressive.

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