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Double Exposure


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at Victory Gardens Studio Theater

I went to see Double Exposure just a couple of hours after sitting through Eight Men Out, John Sayles's new film about the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the team that threw the World Series. So naturally, my mind was full of baseball analogies: Double Exposure is like a no-hitter--not a single joke gets to first base. Most of the skits are wild pitches that don't come anywhere near the strike zone. Other terms, such as "bush league," "beanball," and "strikeout" spring to mind.

But the movie also suggested an explanation for the sorry state of this comedy revue: Tony Alcantar, who claims responsibility for it, must have thrown the game. No one could play this poorly without deliberately dropping the ball.

How poorly does Alcantar play? Well, the best skits are facile and obvious; the worst are incoherent. One was so pointless I assumed I was missing something. In the skit, Alcantar plays a disc jockey doing an all-night program at radio station WXRT. It's 4 AM, and he's interviewing a rock star played by Francesca Rollins, the other member of this two-person show. They're both sleepy, but they press on, yawning violently and making small talk. He gets up to fetch her some coffee. She tries to light her cigarette and accidentally sets her jeans on fire. He returns with herb tea because the station has lost an account with a major coffee company. They talk some more. He puts on "The Thrill Is Gone," by B.B. King. End of skit.

Now, I was sure this had to be a spoof of some real DJ, someone I didn't know, which, of course, would prevent me from catching the sly satire. I called the station and asked about the all-night DJs. I described the skit. I almost asked if anyone had set his or her jeans on fire lately. Nothing. As far as I can make out, the joke is this: on a late-night radio show, people get sleepy. Ha, ha.

Most of the skits are just as inane: In one, Alcantar and Rollins resort to some silly quick-change tricks as they tell the Bible story about Sarah, her 113-year-old husband Abraham, and their son Isaac, whom Abraham almost slaughters as a sacrifice. In another, they portray Romeo and Juliet, who keep accidentally shooting each other with pistols. Miss Teen Pregnancy USA is about an enormously pregnant teen who has won the crown three years in a row. What makes this skit especially odd is that Miss Teen Pregnancy and the pageant's master of ceremonies speak to each other in doggerel:

He: Ingrid Bergman was once chastised.

She: It's amazing how people don't open their eyes.

Am I missing something? Am I merely failing to recognize the subtle humor? I must admit that several times I was totally baffled by what I saw. For example, when Alcantar plays the new postmaster general, he is clumsy and inefficient as he fields a complaint from a disgruntled customer. Fine, I get it--he's as inept as the entire U.S. Postal Service. But during the skit, Alcantar keeps making a face. He forces air behind his upper lip, causing it to bulge, and he opens his eyes wide. The face goes unnoticed by the customer, and seems to have nothing to do with the skit. Or am I overlooking something?

Later, he and Rollins attempt a silent slapstick routine in which Alcantar plays a man who sits down next to a woman on a bus and proceeds to eat his lunch. Perhaps Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin could pull this off, but Alcantar lost me completely. What he was eating and why it caused problems remains a mystery to me.

None of the skits seems to have been thought out. Not only are they not funny, they don't make any sense. Alcantar seems unable to shape a coherent idea and express it clearly. Even his description of the show, which is quoted in a press release, is baffling: Double Exposure, he says, deals with personal issues, of the sort "we can all solve in our own lifetime." What on earth does that mean?

There is one funny line in the show: "You're as irritating as a canker on the lip of a lemon connoisseur." The piano playing by Mimi Lange, who wrote the music for the show, is very pleasant. And I'm still wondering how Rollins managed to set her jeans on fire without getting burned.

But nothing else evoked much of a response from me. Mostly, I just sat there wondering if the show is on the level. Everyone strikes out once in a while, but with Double Exposure, Alcantar seems to be trying to lose.

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