‘Max and Nicky 3’ wonderfully eccentric at the Phoenix Theatre

maxandnicky
Sir Windsorbach Productions/Courtesy

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Two well-dressed men step into a spotlight. Their suits and guitars glimmer in the faint light, as do their identical smiles. Twins Max and Nicky Weinbach were born for this.

What a bizarre, intrepid, incredible and strange journey “Max and Nicky 3” is. These two UC Berkeley alumni have taken ridiculous to another level. Giving in to the outlandish and peculiar familiarity of this variety show is truly a remarkable and exceptional experience. The comical eccentricity, treated with respect but not seriousness, is what makes the idea of this art so special. It is not a pretentious display. When sitting in one of the few seats on the sixth floor of the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco, the audience must make a decision: remain an outsider to the show questioning who could enjoy this or the purpose of coming as just a spectator, or embrace the fantasy. If the viewer doesn’t actively resist it, he or she will inexorably fall in love with this extravaganza, and the smile will not fade from his or her face from start to finish.

A diverse collection of songs, sketches, stories, comedy and magic — among other unidentifiable performances — give shape to this ludicrous spectacle. The whole setup is designed as a caricature of 1960s variety shows. This art form is past its prime, and Max and Nicky — or Nicky and Max — play with this concept in a childish manner to make it their own. The result is a personable, revitalizing and charming show. As soon as the spotlight shines on them and their performing guests, the time traveling begins. Max and Nicky tell a warming and endearingly outdated tale of the 1960s, one that lives through being out of its time. They play as if they were two sophomore college boys in 1967.

From sections such as “Bad Jokes all up in your Face” by Nick Stargu, aka DJ Real, in which the spectators must harness “the power of the fairies” or a barbershop quartet to a late-night talk show, the medley of events is destined to capture the audience’s attention and imagination. In case it wasn’t varied and surrealistically absurd enough, there was even a raffle in which the prize was a VHS copy of Pamela Anderson’s 1996 film “Barb Wire” — a “post-apocalyptic remake of ‘Casablanca’ set in a strip club.” “Max and Nicky 3” is an emotional rollercoaster of laughter and heartwarming qualities — it is, overall, a genuine experience.

After the show, The Daily Californian caught up with Max, Nicky and some of their co-stars. “We hope this is the third of many,” said Max (or, perhaps, it was Nicky). “We’re confident this is the best material we’ve ever come up with.”

“It is this idea of an old-fashioned variety show,” stated the “always effervescent” Jeff Zamaria, who mutated through the spectacle from singing Ryan Adams’ “Dear Chicago” to becoming the host of his own talk show. “We’re fighting the cynicism of today’s art world,” he said.

Max and Nicky’s show is created by a family. Not only because it is literally orchestrated by identical siblings, but because the rest of the participants seem as if they are part of their genealogical tree. The familiar setting makes the audience feel as “if they were in the family too,” as one of the spectators reported to the Daily Cal after the show.

“This show is just so them,” said another of the spectators when the two well-dressed men stepped out of a spotlight. Their suits and guitars glimmered in the faint light, as did their identical smiles, now melancholic, as the show comes to an end — the denouement of a passionate, charming and authentic evening. Twins Max and Nicky Weinbach were born for this.

Contact David Socol at [email protected].

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