Bald Faced Lie at Richard Hugo House
Through June 21.Don't get me wrong. It's not that bloody diarrhea isn't amusing. God knows it is. And a good hypochondriac is as fun as a jar of junkies. But didn't my mustachioed eighth-grade science teacher convince me that E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a bacterium, not a virus? Indeed he did. So it's not that the skit featuring an excitable freak (Karen Gruber) who kept explaining to her doctor (Peggy Gannon) that she'd contracted "the E. coli virus" and was about to start crapping herself to death didn't make me giggle--it did, it really, really, did--it's just that I couldn't fully appreciate it for thinking, "HEY! But, E. coli is a bacterium, not a virus, dammit! And of COURSE you 'HAVE' it. It lives in sublime symbiosis in your intestines!"
This might be the perfect opportunity to illustrate the importance of thorough research where comedy is concerned. But if I presumed to be so pedantic, I'd clearly lack the sense of humor necessary to appreciate--therefore review--late-night sketch comedy. To be frank, the shit ain't Shakespeare, and it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be quick, surprising, and clever. And Bald Faced Lie got most of that right.
This is a terrific cast--Evan Mosher, Kirk Anderson, Ian Bell, and of course Peggy and Karen. In 60 minutes of TV-related sketches (quirky commercials, behind-the-scenes antics), these folks provide as much frantic and furious funny as a good episode of SNL (remember those?). If you enjoy live late-night sketch comedy, you can't do much better than Bald Faced Lie. They just need to brush up on their biology. That's all. ADRIAN RYAN
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In-g Productions at Northwest Actors Studio
Through June 21.Tossing together a mess of random scenes (I counted seven) under the almost eye-rollingly broad theme of "relationships" isn't the freshest of ideas, and threatens to produce a night of theater as boringly predictable as a bag of bricks. And my pants would be on fire if I claimed that the Northwest Actors Studio Cabaret Space's comfy, comfy couch didn't seduce me into nearly nodding off once or twice (okay, just once, for a nanosecond). I'll also go so far as to say that when the rude person behind me failed to "turn off all electrical devices" as requested and got a musical page during some (particularly droning) dialogue, it was a refreshing distraction. Still, some smart people here took this potential minefield of clichés and transformed it into a unique and curious something that was decidedly not cliché.
A good example is the third piece, "Giving Notice," by John Kaufman. At first I thought I was going to hate it: The dialogue seemed obscure, dry, and pretentious. But as the story developed, it waxed intriguing: A jilted young man uses a remote-controlled robotic (or possibly holographic-- this is low-budget stuff) doppelgänger of his ex-girlfriend to work through his post-breakup angst. Sound funny? It wasn't: It was touching, heartbreaking, and dark.
The intrigue continued with Dawson Nichols' "Cocoons," in which two victims of head trauma (with bandages concealing their identities) discover a shared penchant for mate-swapping and gay dabbling (this one was funny). Then there was Dawson Nichols' "Flour," featuring tinfoil-diapered sex addicts drinking their own urine, Keri Healy's "Lemme Work It," a short film spoofing pheromone sprays, and Tamara Paris' "Little Voices," which featured a fabulous dress. Cliché? I think not. ADRIAN RYAN
In the Wake
Golden Fish Theatre at Richard Hugo House
Through June 21.In the Wake is a big piece of crap. Steaming. With a plastic cherry on top.
Much of the fault lies with Becky Hellyer's script, which is devoid of character depth, motivation, and dramatic reason for being. In the play, sister Robin, brother Nicky, and Nicky's perky new wife make to an Italian villa for a vacation. On the siblings' dead mother's birthday, self-proclaimed aunt and big-time heel Jewel appears to regale the gang with fanatical tall tales of their long-departed mother. Nicky, a pathological Puritan, can't bear to hear his mother's fast-lane exploits of drug-taking and heart-breaking--the only stories the pathologically puerile Jewel sees fit to tell. She, it turns out, fabricated some unknown quantity of the exploits and "The End."
All these pathologies are nice devices, but not a single dramatic train actually reaches its station. Why is Jewel a lying lunatic? Why does Nicky recoil so violently from his mother's speckled past? What makes his wife so goddamned peppy?
The Equity-studded cast has been born and bred in high places--the UW's Professional Actor Training Program, Shakespeare studies in London, professional experience in Chicago. But, to a thespian, they fall yawningly flat. Tight and dry in their roles, the ensemble members haven't a scrap of the living presence that is supposed to give live performance its edge over celluloid entertainments.
The single interesting moment comes in the second act, when Brit Leslie Ramsbottom (Keith Nicholai) and Robin (Jordana Kritzer) discuss the significance of keeping diaries. The rest is stilted hogwash that doesn't make a lick of sense. Everything about In the Wake, from actor training to sets, bears the depressing stamp of people who have worked very hard for something that, ultimately, isn't worth anything. BRENDAN KILEY