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Center Stage

‘Triple Espresso’ a comedic tradition in Des Moines theater


‘Triple Espresso,’ presented by the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, runs from Nov. 27 – Jan. 6 at Temple Theater, 1011 Locust St.

Look out Des Moines, the guys from “Triple Espresso: A Highly Caffeinated Comedy” are back on stage and ready to etch their brand of comedy in the minds and mouths of fans of all ages. This show is so full of energy, it’s sure to give you a comedy rush like no other.                 

“Triple Espresso” is the story of three friends’ tumultuous relationship, their journey from nobodies to (quasi)-fame and the disastrous four minutes that took it all away. Hugh Butternut (Paul Somers), Buzz Maxwell (Patrick Albanese) and Bobby Bean (Duane Daniels) present their case to a fresh audience 25 years after an entertainment “fashion faux pas” crushed their aspirations of fame.                 

Now in its 10th year running in Des Moines, “Triple Espresso” has developed a strong following through what seems to be simple word of mouth. Since the premier in October 2002, there have been nearly 700 performances with about 122,000 people in attendance, making “Triple Espresso” Iowa’s longest running show.                 

Upon first entering Temple Theater, don’t be alarmed by the schizophrenic stage that’s equal parts coffee shop and grandmother’s hard candies. The combination of vaudeville, magic, prop comedy and verbal gaffs easily distract from the set, and it quickly becomes apparent that, in this show, that which is not funny is still laughable.                


Puns and mispronounced words are used in nearly every sentence spoken or sung. Hugh Butternut’s song requests from the audience turn “You are the Dancing Queen” into “Hugh is the Dancing Queen,” while the optimistic oaf Bobby Bean mispronounces words like nostalgia as “nos-tag-li-ah.” And Mitch Hedberg-esque one-liners (“It was 120 degrees in the shade, so we stayed out of the shade”) keep audiences laughing even if it’s the single exhale chuckle that seems to say, “I’ll laugh, but I’m not sure why.”                 

Somers, Albanese and Daniels have chemistry with their characters that not only make them funny but also believable. Somers captures Hugh Butternut’s raw talent as a performer who surrounds himself with friends (just not necessarily the kind who will move him forward). Albanese’s deadpan deliveries and impressive magic tricks quickly prove to be a fan favorite, while Daniels is brilliant as Bean, contorting his face in ridiculous ways.                 

In many respects, you could be left utterly bewildered by the success of this comedy. The puns and verbal dyslexia at first come off like jokes an uncle would use on his nieces and nephews to make them laugh and go away at the same time. However, the rapid-fire delivery is reminiscent of Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in “Spies Like Us.” And audiences, take heed — you’re a part of the show, too, no matter where you’re sitting. Think you’ve safely distanced yourself away from the stage? Think again.             

This sort of comedy may not be for everyone, but it can certainly entertain all. Though the dominant audience seemed to be in their 30s and 40s, a member from every age range could be seen and heard, undoubtedly due to the cleanliness of the content. Void of profanity, politics and sex, this production sticks to the heart of comedy: laughing at the misfortune of others. CV


‘Triple Espresso: a Highly Caffeinated Comedy’

Written by Bill Arnold, Michael Pearce Donley and Bob Stromberg.

Directed by William Partlan.

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