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Catskills on Broadway

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Catskills on Broadway, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. The four veteran comedians performing in Catskills on Broadway certainly know their audience. Before the show began, I overheard people discussing their toupees and exchanging Florida travel tips. Imagine, then, the guffaws when these comics addressed the very same topics in their AARP-friendly acts.

Freddie Roman, Lenny Rush, Dick Capri, and Mal Z. Lawrence have been in the business for decades--and it shows. They've got the pacing, self-deprecation, and audience insults down pat. The charismatic Roman has great timing and wonderfully underplays his punch lines, but Lawrence is the most animated, his jokes have more of an edge, and he adds physical humor to portrayals of a shuffling security guard and a greedy Catskills guest water-skiing through sour cream.

Still, the material is more nostalgic than genuinely funny, consisting of stale ethnic humor, variations on the "take my wife, please" theme, and riffs on religion, aging, and gambling in Atlantic City. Yet that predictability seems to appeal to an audience intent on recognizing themselves in the performers' wry observations. To other viewers it might well seem hackneyed: by the time the fourth comedian touches on proctology or prunes, those under the age of 60 will probably wish they'd steered clear of this Catskills homage.

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