Chek It, Baby

Wow. Uh, this is one of the gayest things I’ve ever seen. And I’m saying that as someone who’s reviewed Wonderland.

So, there was at least one major belly-laugh for me during this show — an interpretation of “The Seagull” which consisted of an audience member spinning around in a circle and saying “I’m an actress, coochie coochie coo” as the solo performer shot himself in the head — but for a forty-five minute show, I’m afraid that one laugh represents a poor ratio.

The show opened with a sketch featuring Chekhov’s eponymous three sisters on the set of a talk show, a sketch built upon two jokes: first, the mashup of highbrow and lowbrow, which makes for a fine joke, if not a terribly sustainable one; and second, the rapid character-switching of a single performer, which is a crowd-pleasing performance technique that has rarely worked for me. (I say with some dread, as I’m currently developing a show that relies heavily on my own character-switching.)

This moves into a fundamentalist preacher delivering his interpretation of “The Cherry Orchard,” and, mmm, this is where the performance lost me entirely. Fundamentalism is a philosophy so grotesque that it’s an easy target for satire — too easy; it’s an opportunity for the audience to pat themselves on the back in a self-congratulatory manner without challenging them in any meaningful way, and I find that a style of comedy that’s very difficult for me to stomach. It’s little more than excuse for a room full of liberals to chuckle at the stupidity of Republicans with a few Chekhov references going on in the background, and I was wincing through most of it.

In all fairness, I’ll offer the caveat that the audience *was* chuckling liberally throughout (a pun! Hah! Aren’t I too precious for words), but for my own part, the greatest virtue of the performance was that it was mercifully short. The performer was indeed charismatic, but the strength of the performance rode almost solely upon his own charisma, and not upon the strength of the material. Speaking as a writer, this was rough going.

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