BOXED SET, Bang Bang Spontaneous Theater, at Victory Gardens Theater. You might call this show "Bang Bang's Best Shots": Boxed Set is a compilation of scripted scenes the troupe developed through improvisation. And since its alumni include a large number of character actors constituting some of Chicago theater's favorite psycho-thug creepsters, it should come as no surprise that the show is geared more toward shivery paranoia than laff-a-minute jollies. In one sketch, three saloon buddies muse on country-western music's legacy of homicide, then one suggests--just solemnly enough to make the others wonder if he's kidding--that a bloodbath might be a fitting commemoration for the bar they're in. In another, a controlling father forces a coworker to attend his unpopular teenage daughter's birthday party; by the end, child and coworker are happily skipping off to the latter's AA meeting. A Patch Adams-style doctor admits that his whimsy is a front for medical ignorance, and a goldfish seeks solace in existentialism.
Bang Bang's slow-paced, unflinching look at the unpleasant side of our world, with its abusive authority figures and ever-present threats of violence, may prove disconcerting to viewers who are faint of heart. But if your funny bone is tickled by the idea of a chronic loser constantly told to go fuck himself actually doing it (offstage, fortunately), this is your kind of show.
--Mary Shen Barnidge