Debut | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Debut, Funny How Productions, at the Playground. Inspiration is in short supply in this ramshackle sketch-comedy revue by Second City Training Center grads. The show seems to have been created by guys who lounge around in their boxers watching too much TV and licking Cheetos powder off their fingers. Save for one manic, pitch-perfect commentary on post-9/11 airport paranoia, Debut might as well have been conceived in a hermetically sealed bubble. It's definitely not funny-relevant or funny-original--even the comparatively modest goal of funny-ha-ha seems light-years away.

The pacing is completely out of whack: most of the scenes either ape the Saturday Night Live school of dead horse flogging or have no punch lines at all. One-joke gags have been stretched into three-part runners while no-joke premises have been whipped up into airy, tasteless confections. But the writing wasn't the only source of the groans, half laughs, and sighs of disapproval emanating from the audience. The six ensemble members wield all the standard comedy tools well enough and do a good job of ignoring the massive train wreck unfolding before their eyes. But none works hard enough at simply selling the material. A little energy, a little heart, and a little commitment would go a long way toward making Debut bearable; at their best, the performers still look like they're hoping for pity laughs or desperately praying for a rain-out.

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