Appetizers, Tangerine Arts Group, at the Side Studio. This half-baked double bill of improv and monologues is not very nourishing. In The Joe Benigno Way, improvisers Jordan Klepper and Rocky Russo play pairs of undistinguished characters over a 35-minute period, ignoring interesting plot turns (all two of them), clowning at a glacial pace in apparent hope of inspiration, and never bringing a situation to the point where it deserves a return.
At least Making Room for Coffee, writer-performer John Cunningham's 35-minute collection of monologues, is scripted. Loosely inspired by Richard Brautigan, these hit-and-run vignettes vaguely depict dislocation--betting on song lyrics at an Old Town bar, overhearing a conversation about Christianity at the Evanston Public Library, developing a crush on a teenage girl in a PBS series, reading Brautigan stories to fill the time. Unfortunately, bland, unfocused anecdotes a la Andy Rooney desperately demand some stand-up style. And though Cunningham has an eye for detail, his earnest proclamation of obvious discoveries cries out for a point beyond the chat. He seems to have no idea that he's not the first to do or feel any of this stuff. That lack of self-awareness takes a serious toll.