Triple Espresso

I waited until the last minute to order tickets to see one of the last performances of Triple Espresso (at least for now) at the Temple for the Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines. I’ve been wanting to see the show…but I was afraid to commit to buying tickets too far in advance in case Mother Nature decided to drop a foot of snow on the ground.

I almost waited too long. I got two of the last tickets in the next-to-last row at the third-to-last performance. Whew!

The show is legendary in Des Moines, running for 16 months in 2002-03 and returning for multiple repeat engagements. Two of the show’s three performers, John Bush and Patrick Albanese, spent so much time in Des Moines that they decided to move here.

Triple Espresso is a light comedy set in a coffee house in 2002. The storyline begins with performer Hugh Butternut (Robert O. Berdahl) celebrating the anniversary of his coffee house performances – apparently half his life has been spent there. To celebrate, he invites his old partners, Bobby Bean (Bush) and Buzz Maxwell (Albanese) to join him. The show alternates between the present-day 2002 and flashbacks to the trio’s earlier performances as far back as the 1970s.

As I was watching the show, I was thinking, “This is a show about a goofball, a sadsack, and a lounge lizard.” The three diverse personalities play well off each other and the plot (if you can call it that) is just plain fun – no more, no less. It may be the last show directed at adults that isn’t a bit R-rated. (So bring the kids if you want, but I guarantee they’ll be bored.)

Highlights for me were Albanese (as Buzz) performing a sad, pathetic – and therefore hilarious – magic act. He was so nervous that he had to keep stopping his act to breathe into a paper bag. At one point, as his trick was clearly going into the toilet, he asked the audience if we could close our eyes for just a minute. It was a truly inspired bit of bumbling.

Another funny bit involved the Bobby Bean character performing shadow puppets like I’ve never seen shadow puppets before. And the dance the trio performs with six pieces of construction paper is indescribably funny.

Triple Espresso involves some audience participation – we sang and did hand gestures and called out our favorite songs of the 1970s (“Did I hear Muskrat Love?”) – and I was glad that I was on the next-to-last row to preserve my anonymity…those folks in the front got picked on a lot.

The current run closes today (Sunday, Jan. 9), but I’m sure it will be back soon in all its caffeinated glory.

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