24 November 2007 King’s Head Theatre, London
If the plot of Bicycle Men were the premise for an episode of The Simpsons, it would be hysterical. Despite having the voice of Homer Simpson in the lead role, played by Dan Castellaneta, Bicycle Men is painfully unfunny. American Steve (Castellaneta) is stranded in a provincial town in France when he breaks his bicycle. Having to wait until his bicycle is fixed he meets the array of wacky odd-ball locals. Predicable gags about baguettes, mime and puppetry follow, along with less predictable, bad taste jokes about eating dog faeces and baby-beating. Considering the writers have worked on prominent American sitcoms, it is strange that Bicycle Men can be so immature. As a musical, the play is a series of set pieces joined together by abstract theatrical interludes, but all based on the belief that the French are sexually depraved lunatics, obsessed with the Tour de France.
Performed by four actors who play various roles, the acting is commendable and all of them sing well. John Rubano provides one of the very few laughs in the play, ironically, when singing “Unremarkable Man”. A second laugh happens in “White guys” that echoes a minstrel show as the two sing; “The white guys are here. So let the fun begin.” Set against a simple backdrop of a weathered wall implying the south of France, there is nothing idyllic or blissful in this play. Forced laughs from the audience showed the play dragged, leaving the audience wanting Steve to get his bicycle fixed and get as far away as possible. In the words of l’homme de bicyclette talks to Steve from above, the play leaves the audience wishing “No bicyclette”.