Aug. 27, 2004





Is it a play? Or is it really a concert?


In some alternate entertainment universe, the Four Postmen are geek-chic rock stars with their own sitcom and a national following of lyric-parsing fans.


On this mundane plane of reality, however, they're a struggling novelty act with a trunk full of quirky, catchy ditties, stage chops to burn and a small, rabid fan base that may indeed be wondering, as the title of the band's new stage show puts it, "What the Hell Happened?" As in: Why aren't these guys as big as Barenaked Ladies and "Mad TV" put together?


The answer suggested by this larkish bioplay/concert is that these five fellows--the Four Postmen are actually a quintet, and were founded as a trio--seem so at home in a live, intimate theater setting that it's not clear how well their up-close-and-personal charms would translate to TV, let alone MTV.


Proffering folksy power pop with pristine three-part harmonies, infectious hooks and tastily interlaced guitar lines, the Four Postmen strike an unlikely balance somewhere between the so-ironic-it's-serious shamelessness of Tenacious D and the all-American showbiz sheen of "Forever Plaid." Though the show includes a fair helping of mildly crude humor and a few obligatory drug references, this is a band which almost lost a founding member--to grad school.


Would-be rocker Ken Weiler supplies some of the group's most well-crafted tunes, including the affecting "Dumb Guy," while the laconic Stefan Marks writes nervy quasi-affirmative ruminations like "I'm Gonna Die." Hammy Matt Kaminsky hits soaring high notes and nails some low comedy, such as a riotous boy-band parody we won't be seeing at the Super Bowl anytime soon.


Indeed, if relative obscurity and career frustration are what inspired this shaggy-dog romp of a show, the Four Postmen might be right where they belong.

--Rob Kendt


"The Four Postmen: What the Hell Happened?" the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd floor, Hollywood. Ends Sept. 4. $12. (818) 754-4700. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.