Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave S, 365-0282. Fri-Sat at 10:30, Sun at 4:30; $5-$8. Through Nov 19.
IN 1994, I WAS lucky enough to see the end of the Broadway run for Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Stoppard's script is clever and romantic, and while no perfect show would feature Blair Brown in an important role, the original cast featured a just-out-of-school Billy Crudup in a star-making performance. During the play's climax, terrifically directed to underscore the characters' poignant loneliness, I choked up at the sight of such great writing so elegantly staged.
Little did I know that seeing Arcadia was merely a karmic certificate of deposit for the horror that is Dim Sum! The Musical!, a collection of new sketches and songs from the multicultural comedy group the Pork Filled Players. The audience is subjected to magnificently toothless satires on clubbing-edge subjects like ethnic stereotyping, nerds, and the banality of Charlie's Angels. In terms of tone and execution, Dim Sum! is almost exactly like one of those episodes of a 1970s sitcom where the entire cast puts on an impersonation-heavy variety show. Unfortunately, the Pork Filled Players lack the break-out talent of a Bookman or a Schneider, let alone a Carvelli.
The only appropriate reaction to a show this ham-fisted is to stare at it in slack-jawed wonder like Farina from the Little Rascals, before dissolving into giggles or tearing ass for the door. At its halfway point, during a sketch the length of the Vietnam War, involving the female members of the superheroic X-Men joining Christina Aguilera in an all-girl band, the show finally destroyed my mind. Numbed beyond feeling, a beatific smile on my face, I had only to suppress an occasional reflex-driven desire to charge the stage and throw fireproof blankets over various cast members. Their honest, prodigious effort keeps me from recommending Dim Sum! as a late-night stage version of an Ed Wood film, and makes me sincerely hope they find their intended audience. I'm only slightly frightened that one probably exists.