The man at the top of the stairs in Greenwich Village did not look or sound like David Shiner. Too amiable. Not sneering, not leering, not climbing over the seats, not ripping fur coats out of the arms of ladies in the first row.
"Hello," he said. "Come in."
It was David Shiner all right.
"The beast," said his partner, Bill Irwin.
In 1984, the year actor/clown Irwin received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award, David Shiner was still climbing over cars and people in the streets of Paris, sometimes getting beat up in the process, trying desperately to outdo Marcel Marceau. "We all stole from Marceau," Irwin said now, consolingly.
Shiner, tall and slim, was born in Boston 42 years ago. Irwin, rather more round, like a marshmallow, was born in Santa Monica 45 years ago. Together they are "Fool Moon," the two-man (plus wonderful oddball music by The Red Clay Ramblers) show that brought infinite joy to eight months of Broadway theatregoers two years ago and is now back on Broadway for a run through January 7 at the Ambassador.
"Fool Moon" is an entertainment without words but bursting with wonderfully witty action that‹within a certain pattern‹varies from night to night, depending on which pretty girl, for instance, is pulled up out of the audience for a ride in an invisible tin lizzie or a romantic interlude in a restaurant intruded upon by a maître d'' with his own notions of seduction.
No, there is never, ever, a plant, not with the pretty girls, not with the four people drafted by Shiner to take part in the hysterical silent-movie shoot that climaxes the evening.
"It''s amazing to me," said Irwin, "how David can pick ''em. How do you pick ''em?"
"I look for innocence," said Shiner. "And for body types."
Irwin and Shiner were first thrown together on the 1992 set of Sam Shepard''s Silent Tongues. "Shepard told us to start fooling around. They gave us two minutes, and we did nine."
What struck Shiner from the first was that "working with Bill was so fluid‹with other clowns it never clicked that quickly."
The evening at the Ambassador is pretty much the same as the one at the Richard Rodgers two seasons ago. "It''s hard to put in new material when a show works well and is very fragile," Shiner said. "A few new tweaks," said Irwin.
Do any of those ladies in the front row get really mad when Shiner tries to take their coats away?
"No, really not. If they do‹" Shiner spread his arms wide. "If they''re that attached to their coat, okay, I let go." He smiled. "I like the angry arrogant guy"‹himself‹"staring at the latecomers. So impatient, so angry, so full of himself."
Where does that come from?
"We don''t want to get into that," said David Shiner.
"Oh, I don''t know," said Bill Irwin.
-- By Jerry Tallmer