ComedySportz: The Big Game | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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ComedySportz: The Big Game


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ComedySportz: The Big Game, at ComedySportz. Professional wrestling has always had a pull on the public's imagination: in its choreographed symphonies of violence, the epic battle between good and evil can be decided by a sleeper hold. Pro wrestling also comes close to ComedySportz's preferred approach to competition, using a general framework for improv that remains largely the same week after week. Still, director Zach Thompson's unflagging devotion to the sport's golden age in the mid-80s is the only thing that really sets The Big Game apart from your average ComedySportz show: he dons a garish wrestling mask and really gets into the histrionics, disputing the referee's calls and provoking his competitors.

Too bad the rest of the ensemble look like they've made a run to the nearby Village Thrift for Halloween costumes. They've all picked alter egos that don't fit wrestling archetypes or don't translate easily to the ComedySportz format; the result is a dismal bait and switch where the performers drop character within games and hope that the audience won't catch on. And passion--or at least the image of passion, to paraphrase wrestling enthusiast Roland Barthes--is lacking, heightening the effect of every minute the ensemble spends actually buying into the concept and attempting to channel the electricity of wrestling in this otherwise infuriating cavalcade of goofy hats, bungled accents, and half-baked improv.

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