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Absolute Tabloid

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ABSOLUTE TABLOID, Hit 'n' Run Productions, at the Bailiwick Arts Center. It's taken over half a decade, but the Torso and Annoyance folks--creators of Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack and Coed Prison Sluts respectively--have finally spawned recognizable offspring in Charles Bila's Absolute Tabloid (aka Ab Tab). Imposing the myth of Pandora on an environment cobbled together out of a half dozen shock-journal headlines, the play follows the adventures of the Vilé family and their acquaintances as they indulge their various perversions, attaining spiritual enlightenment in an Amsterdam leather palace before dying at the hands of a femi-Nazi terrorist, after which Pandora decides the fate of their souls.

Ab Tab's humor leans heavily toward the scatological and the phallic, though Renata Kozlowski does a turn worthy of an Olympic gymnast as Mrs. Vilé testing a new vibrator and Brian Perez does a nice John Leguizamo imitation in a feather boa ("Ten Muppets died to make this") and zebra wig. The dialogue includes several witty if unoriginal puns ("immaculate erection") as well as one serial-killer gag, a few self-referential asides, and a sly homage to one of its prototypes when a character is offered a pipeful of "cannibal cheerleader crack." The show is juvenile enough to have been improvised at a Cub Scout retreat, right up to a facile ending that attempts to give the gratuitous gross-outs a lofty social purpose. Still, for those audiences who can now sing along with the Torso and Annoyance shows, Ab Tab offers plenty more of the same.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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