Cracker | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Cracker, at ImprovOlympic. At its best, Cleetus Friedman's "hip-hop theater" is innovative, laugh-out-loud funny, and thought provoking. A selection of favorite pieces from two previous one-man shows, Cracker combines comic character sketches with rhyming raps; DJ Savage on the turntable gives the show a stylish acoustic backdrop. In his opening bit, Friedman tells the audience to "forget Vanilla Ice and Eminem"--and this Jewish rapper is not your typical hip-hop artist. He has the bravado, posing, and patter down but comically riffs on such subjects as airline safety and Jewish culture (he's JewPac, and DJ Savage is an inspired Dr. Dreidel). The ravings of Friedman's Def Leppard-loving pothead are hilarious, and he and DJ Savage are great playing young suburban white kids enthralled by rap culture.

Yet this one-hour hit parade is uneven. The show needs tightening, and two segments could use further development: the character of Goldie, a gay man coming out at Passover, is well written, but Friedman needs to give him more personality, and a scene in which he plays three tenuously connected characters flounders because Friedman changes costumes for each person's lines. Opening-night glitches can be overcome, but the delays between sketches and the show's erratic structure (one scene that would have made a great finale comes too early) will be harder to fix.

--Jenn Goddu

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