CUPID MISFIRES HIS EROS, at the Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio, and YER MOM, at the Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio. The course of true love certainly doesn't run smooth for the confused souls depicted by Brian Posen's ensemble in the sketch revue Cupid Misfires His Eros. But where most young performers tend toward broad ridicule of romantic relationships, an attitude bred of self-consciousness, the youthful creators of this show are more notable for their candor than their mockery.
Take the sketch about a best buddy who inspires sexual fantasies in both members of a married couple. There's no punch line, no resolution, no cathartic revelation--only the despair of three people too fond of one another to risk ending their tension-riddled friendship. Or consider the couple who part company after finding evidence of a stranger having slept in their bed--only to discover too late the hair's innocuous source. Even the few standard-issue bits (a housewife who deserts her hoggish hubby for the sensitive hippie next door, a hee-haw song entitled "We Put the 'Fun' in 'Dysfunctional'") have their twists. Ranjit Souri's stereotypical casting as a convenience-store owner in one scene is redeemed in another when he plays a young man confronting a ludicrously xenophilic future mother-in-law. But ultimately it's the honesty that Posen's players bring to their material that gives what could have been just another Mars-and-Venus polemic intelligence, insight, and originality.
Intelligence and insight are scarce in Yer Mom. The situations are often humorous: Elian Gonzalez and Janet Reno visit Judge Judy, a football coach substitutes for the sex doctor on a call-in radio show, a seventh-grade boy grows an Appalachian-length beard. But the development of these ideas consists almost entirely of playground-level potty-mouthing, with dialogue so predictable that audience members were delivering punch lines before the performers could. And the characters quickly become predictable: Mike Nelson is the sensitive geek, Dan Stransky the horny jock, Elle Russ the passive blond, Janell Cox the feisty brunet, and Fred Warner the protean straight man.
Ironically, the evening's most intriguing sketch stems from its most tasteless premise: a hapless masseuse inadvertently relaxes her clients' sphincter muscles. Nelson and Cox display agile imaginations and an array of odd faces and voices. But a 50-minute midnight show (including at least 10 minutes of scene and costume changes) needs more than funny premises and shticks.
--Mary Shen Barnidge