Signature Theatre revives its hit multimedia clown show featuring Bill Irwin and David Shiner. More…
After an extended sold out run in 2013, Bill Irwin and David Shiner's award-winning, critically acclaimed production of 'Old Hats' returns to the Signature Theatre. This production reunites the clowns with original director Tina Landau and introduces their new songstress and comic foil Shaina Taub. Using music, technology and movement, Irwin and Shiner combine their inimitable magic and slapstick to create an unforgettable outing that's fun for the whole family.
"For sheer sustained fun and laughter, there are very few shows that can rival ‘Old Hats,’ and very few clowns as multitalented as Mr. Irwin and Mr. Shiner, who dance, sing, play musical instruments, and clown with the nonverbal, physical genius of the great silent movie comics. This is the kind of show you can see over and over and still find that it never becomes old hat." Full Review
"The encore production of this flawlessly executed and cleverly designed show turns out to be irresistible, an antidote for nasty times, alternative medicine for flu season, a reminder that nearly anything done well enough–even mime and vaudeville–can feel new and hip…The only obvious change from the last run is the choice of singer and band leader Shaina Taub, who now provides the musical interludes…These songs indirectly underscore the tension in some of Irwin and Shiner’s routines." Full Review
"Clowning may be 'old hat' for Irwin and Shiner — two masters of physical comedy — but they're pros at dusting off their old tricks and making them shine like new...Even if sight gags and magic acts leave you cold, you can't help but join the celebration of this onstage camaraderie that cheers the theatrical traditions this duo is silently keeping alive." Full Review
“This is one of those exemplary evenings of theatre with flawless performances by all. It is graced by two consummate artists who excel in their craft, love their work, respect their audience and appear much younger physically and mentally, than their experienced years. Make some time to sit back and enjoy a remarkable entertaining evening of theater.” Full Review
"Two highly skilled clowns and a charming band make for an irresistible evening of entertainment...This is a show that will delight countless audiences from every demographic...This is a production that's suitable for all ages. Although it gets bawdy at times, its heart is with anyone and everyone who likes to laugh." Full Review
"First, an admission: I hate clowns. But I'll happily make an exception for Bill Irwin and David Shiner, currently reprising their show 'Old Hats.' Even the routines you might have seen before — whether in their solo performances; their previous collaboration, Fool Moon; or this production, first seen in 2013 — are bursting with comic freshness and vitality, belying the fact that both men are in their sixties." Full Review
"These two got me again. They know each other’s moves and if they spoke they would finish each other’s sentences…These clowns imbue their hats with life. Hats become sentient. They fly, they flee, they tumble and twirl, they zip and zing. And always, always, always they make us laugh…Irwin and Shiner make you laugh, and occasionally break your heart, with the lift of an eyebrow or the tweak of a pinky." Full Review
"Bill Irwin and David Shiner return in 'Old Hats,' which uses clowning and physical theater as a vehicle for social commentary as well as a belly full of laughs...Some scenes are, perhaps, even more timely this time around...Don’t be fooled by the ease of these masters as you witness the culmination of generations of clowning tradition. Taub is a charming foil to the pair, delivering a whimsical collection of songs...'Old Hats' is a dream not to miss." Full Review
"Bill Irwin and David Shiner have been clowning around for so long, you’d think their shtick in 'Old Hats' would be more, well, old hat. But the rubber-limbed clowns (seriously, do they have any joints at all?) are as irresistible as ever." Full Review
"The performers bring an undeniable freshness and fierce intelligence to clowning, a form that Irwin and Shiner seem to have a monopoly on these days, at least in the theatre. But they bring a different kind of intelligence that we associate with most other actors and performers–a comic intelligence, for sure–but also the emotional intelligence required to show us something we know but often forget: comedy and tragedy are merely two sides of the same coin." Full Review
"Directed by Tina Landau, the return engagement of Irwin and Shiner's 2013 Signature hit, 'Old Hats,' is a fascinating display of an art form that retains its newness in the hands of masters who mix classic bits with modern wordless observations...Family friendly entertainment is rarely this hip...Singer/songwriter Shaina Taub and her band entertain between routines, showcasing flippantly fun lyrics and melodies that she sings with dark cheeriness." Full Review
"The boys are back in town, with a new accompanist who gives their mild shenanigans an unexpected edge...These skilled clowns know that chaos and comedy are cousins. A delightful and manic audience-participation sketch recreating the filming of a movie western lifts everyone’s spirits before it’s time to go home." Full Review
"Most of the routines will be familiar to those who have seen earlier iterations the show, whose highlights are some audience-participation shenanigans and the big fine, in which several folks are put into the service of filming a silent Western. The only thing assured is the sound of laughter." Full Review
"There's something illuminating and inspiring about witnessing a master decades into his career ply his craft as though he were fresh on the boards. And when it's good, it doesn't matter if it's familiar. So even though Irwin, Shiner, and Landau were just here three years ago, when 'Old Hats' made its New York premiere in the same theater, there's a good reason for this revival: They've improved both it and themselves." Full Review
"Bill Irwin and David Shiner are back in town, doing their familiar, irresistibly funny clown routines one more time, and who would want them to do anything else?...Although Irwin and Shiner are both in their 60s, they’ve retained the remarkable physical grace and dexterity that are at the center of their art...The versatile Taub, writes quirky songs, sings, provides entertainment between the clown numbers...All three performers prove that something old can be remarkably fresh." Full Review
"'Old Hats' is itself a retread; a slightly different version played a sold-out run at the Signature in 2013. The sketches are mostly unchanged, except to the extent that they are automatically altered by the serendipity of audience participation, of which there’s a lot...Even when the material is unaltered it’s still welcome, putting the sweet-and-sour pairing of Irwin and Shiner to excellent use both separately and together." Full Review
"It was an entertaining evening, a bit on the soft smile side of the spectrum of enjoyment, but amusing none the less. Bill Irwin did crack me up as the magician’s big haired lovely assistant/jealous girlfriend in a skit that I must say stretched on a bit too long past the punchline. This is probably what I thought of most of the skits to be frank...I like my theatre with a bit more drive and a lot more engaging and engrossing storytelling." Full Review
for a previous production "What is better than leaving the theatre smiling and feeling like a million bucks? Not much, my friends. There should be a Nobel Prize for making people laugh. When you laugh you have to let go. You have to open up and let all the goodness in. When you laugh you are vulnerable and filled with joy. When you laugh you are at the mountaintop of being alive. Get on over to this show!!!" Full Review
for a previous production "Battling cosmic forces beyond them is one of the things that make Bill Irwin’s collaborations with David Shiner so much more than mere clowning around. That’s not meant to take anything away from the clowning itself, which is the irresistible core of 'Old Hats...' 'Old Hats' remains the mostly silent testament of two vaudevillians to the curative power of slapstick over the winter blues. It’s sheer pleasure." Full Review
for a previous production "Clowning, the way Bill Irwin and David Shiner do it, is a kind of art form. Their newest show has come to San Francisco in a production deftly directed by Tina Landau...Together they are dynamite, tap dancing and mugging their way through two fast-moving hours of comedy...It’s a slick, polished evening of fun that is anything but 'old hat.'” Full Review
for a previous production "Run, don’t walk, while these two comic geniuses are still appearing. It’s been 13 years since Irwin and Shiner last combined their unparalleled comic gifts on a San Francisco stage. Who knows when they’ll be back?" Full Review
for a previous production "Irwin and Shiner remind us here that clowning is no theatrical step-child but a full-fledged member of the arts...This clown show raises the bar on clowning, with its acrobatic finesse and intellectual bite. Irwin and Shiner put a spade to their clowning roots here and grow a brilliant new piece that has one foot in the past, one in the present, and surely plants them in the genealogical line of great clowns like Harpo Marx, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin." Full Review
for a previous production "In case anyone wondered if these terrific clowns are still as good, stop worrying. They are non pareil. (There’s nobody like them.) They still display the body jokes, the loose physical movements and juggler style tricks that they are known for...But the skits are not just physical, they are social and political, all staged with finesse by director Tina Landau...They may be 'old hat, but this terrific production is very very new!" Full Review
for a previous production "Mixing slapstick with artistry—their bodies can go from rigid to boneless in the blink of an eye—Irwin and Shiner are able to animate the inanimate, wage battle against uncooperative furnishings and props, and trigger uncontrolled laughter with a raised eyebrow or sly smile. What’s more, they are fearless when it comes to merging the traditional with the silly and the silly with the subliminal, all the while indulging in their favorite game of one-upmanship." Full Review
See it if you appreciate incredible movement and humor. The between skit music by Shaina Taub was also beautiful and funny. Bill & David are masters!
Don't see it if You want something with a continuous plot. You don't like traditional or modern clowning.
See it if you are up for something different and fun; if you like improv/classic clowning, or if you like a great, eclectic female singer & cool band.
Don't see it if You want a story. You don't like silliness. You don't like fun. You want a huge production.
See it if You enjoy physical humor melded with new media. If you like traditional physical humor and vaudeville and clever lyrics.
Don't see it if You need to have a storyline or walk out of the show humming the most hummable tune. This was a great alternative to the usual shows.
See it if you love clowning and great music, and want to see two master clowns at work up close.
Don't see it if Hate clowning, need a strong narrative plot, hate music and lack a funny bone.
See it if . . .you want to experience two National treasures. Bill Irwin and David Shiner are brilliant.
Don't see it if . . you are looking for a play with a story. This is a review of classic clowning.
See it if you want to spend a night laughing out loud, you enjoy hearing new music, can appreciate miming & classic old comedy.
Don't see it if you're looking for a musical or something more traditional- this is a very different but VERY funny show!
See it if you want to laugh. You'll leave feeling better about the world. The men are masterful and Shaina Taub more than keeps up with up them!
Don't see it if you've forgotten how to laugh...although this show might remind you!
See it if I love Bill Irwin. He is irresistible, funny, clever, gentle, intelligent, with a body of rubber! The music is also wonderful. See it.
Don't see it if You need a really appreciation of imagination to enjoy this show. You have to meet the performers halfway and go with the fun.
See it if You just want a good laugh. Bill and David do a great job enaging the audience. The band keeps you engaged during the scene shifts.
Don't see it if You want to see two guys do stand-up comedy talking the whole time. They barely talk in the show.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies