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Despondent Confrontation and Sustain

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This double bill starts black and ends colorful. Comic relief--mostly in the form of a talking banana--comes sparingly in Sustain, about a struggling actor crippled by post-9/11 anxiety. You're quickly forced to sympathize or not with the heavyhearted protagonist, writer-performer Brandon J. Sornberger. Cleverly, newspapers blanket the set's furniture. But the one-man show Despondent Confrontation comes on like a big "just kidding." Writer-performer Ben Seeder, apparently building his career on awkwardness, finds brilliant comedy in odd, uneasy exchanges, like one between an adolescent girl and her mother's frustrated boyfriend, who's urging her to go to sleep. A tremendous stage presence, Seeder gives some scenes the energy of an ensemble sketch and draws steady smiles and hard laughs. --Ryan Hubbard a Through 3/8: Thu 8 PM, I.O., 3541 N. Clark, 773-880-0199, $5.

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