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Behrens Hits Spot As ‘Grousing’ Mcmanus

“Pat McManus, Endlessly Grousing” Saturday, Dec. 13, The Met

The audience was in stitches, and speaking of stitches, I was afraid some people might end up needing a few.

For busted guts and that sort of thing.

Writer Pat McManus and actor Tim Behrens have been giving audiences conniptions for five years now, so this is hardly big news anymore. But this show at The Met was different for two reasons: First, it was Behrens’ first weekend back on stage since nearly dying of Legionnaire’s disease in late October. He looked tired, but he didn’t act it; his energy and timing were as admirable as ever. He was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

For another thing, this was the world premiere of a new McManus stage show, “Pat McManus, Endlessly Grousing.”

“New” is a relative term, since more than half of the show consists of the best-loved stories from the previous two stage shows, “A Fine and Pleasant Misery: The Humor of Pat McManus” and “McManus In Love.” We were treated to reprises of the deer-riding-a-bicycle story, the backyard-campout-with-The-Mummy story, and the Rancid-crabtree-flying-down-the-mountain-on-a-toboggan story.

These stories were as funny the second time around as they were the first. McManus’ wordcraft is flawless - do you have any idea how much work it takes to make these stories sound so breezy? Also, I felt that the more subdued Behrens was actually funnier this time around, less over-the-top.

Yet the new material provided some of the best moments. Behrens (as McManus) started off one story by talking about an opportunity he had this summer to spend some time in the woods, to appreciate nature at its best, etc., etc.

Then he paused for just the right amount of time, and said, “And then they found me.”

It was a story about being lost, and the main lesson that McManus learned from it is that the only truly useful compass would be one that “points to where your car is parked.”

Behrens also performed a piece from McManus’ new book, “Into the Twilight, Endlessly Grousing,” about how it’s OK for men to cry, and another story about his old mountain car, Mrs. Peabody, complete with hilarious exhaust gags.

In an unusual departure, the show ends with a bittersweet story, “The Boy,” from the new book. Behrens actually read the story, verbatim. This made it decidedly less theatrical than the rest of the evening, but it signalled the audience that here was a story that had a purpose beyond entertainment.

This show is still a work in progress, and although it is perfectly enjoyable the way it stands, McManus and Behrens will probably be tweaking it further before they take it on the road in January.

They might want to add a bit more “grousing” material, if only because we expect it from the title. Also, they might want to experiment with “The Boy” and see what happens when the story is performed instead of read. It might fly and it might not, but it might be worth a try.

, DataTimes