Everybody Loves Ramen, Stir-Friday Night!, at the Theatre Building Chicago. This Asian-American sketch-comedy troupe fires more blanks than live rounds in its latest revue, a muddled, skewed attempt to grapple with fallout from the new wave of American nationalism. Almost every scene has a sinister edge--a fairly straightforward character study of a mechanic and a single mom takes a dark turn, for example, when it's revealed that the woman is a bad parent and an alcoholic. Some of the material is in shockingly bad taste: in the show's most vulgar tactic, Danny Pudi and Danny Bernardo pull semiautomatic weapons on the audience. The few genuinely lighthearted moments feel completely out of place, a clear sign that the company ought to be spending more time on its projects before putting them onstage.
What Stir-Friday Night! really needs is a more hands-on director. The individual scenes are all sharply staged by Joe Bill, but the show could use some drastic editing and better pacing. Half of Everybody Loves Ramen is devoted to a minimusical about India's "monkey man" scare that starts as an irreverent parody but quickly slumps into an earnest effort. Surely there's a better way for the troupe to showcase its talents--but with every revue, the goal of reaching its potential seems more and more elusive.