at Puszh Studios, through September 28
Lookitwhatwedid used to be Danny's Show-a-Go-Go, a revue of oddball skits, songs, and miscellany staged on the second floor of Danny's Tavern, that Bucktown bar-in-a-house. Then the group went legit, moving to a theater much larger than Danny's, ready to take on the big time. But unfortunately it seems the big time isn't there. Lookitwhatwedid is one disrespectful--and occasionally obnoxious--production. It's like a fish out of water in its new space, floundering around and hitting the audience a little too hard over the head.
Subtitled "a performance grab bag," Lookitwhatwedid is exactly that. Sometimes the seven-member troupe pull out great moments of quirky theater, sometimes they pull out strange bits that have the potential to be great, and sometimes they pull out schlock.
Maybe the move highlighted the rough edges of this production; it seems better suited to a place where the lights are dim and the alcohol strong. Most of these skits are underdeveloped. Robert Bouwman and Todd Schaner's "Tiff and Mom" sequences could be hilariously original if only the writing/acting duo would better define who exactly Mom and Tiff are. At first Bouwman and Schaner seem just a couple of guys playing women's roles. Then we discover that Mom is a bisexual cross-dresser who lives in Berwyn. But is Tiff (also a cross-dresser) really her daughter? And if Tiff is her biological daughter, how did it happen? These are only some of the unanswered questions that prevent this act from being as good as it could be.
In typical grab-bag manner, the first "Tiff and Mom" is followed by a small, strange treasure called "Doll Woman." P.K. Doyle plays a demented doll collector with a quirky, halting way of speaking; her personality becomes more and more bizarre as she shows her collection to a potential customer. Bouwman and Schaner's writing is much tighter here: they delicately peel away, layer by layer, the macabre history of the dolls to reveal a genuinely scary twist at the end.
Another great skit follows: "Ikke, Ikke, Nye, Nye, Nye," by Lanford Wilson. Doreen Dawson and Alex T. Blatt play Edith and Graham, a couple of sex-starved young office workers in the 1950s. Edith has invited Graham home after a night at the theater. She's wild about the thought of having a man in her apartment, and throws herself seductively over the couch, the table--anything available--in hopes of luring him. Graham, the dweebish son of the company president, has a telephone fetish, which he hides from Edith until he can control himself no longer. Dawson and Blatt create hilarious caricatures of these two odd but endearing people, making this the most enjoyable part of the evening.
If all the acts were as good as this one, Lookitwhatwedid would be one hell of an irreverent good time. But another nebulous "Tiff and Mom" follows on the heels of "Ikke, Ikke, Nye, Nye, Nye," followed by intermission. The second act begins with a whimper and careens downward through two other acts only to smash on the floor during the nauseating "'Dentity Crisis," by Christopher Durang. Durang creates a disturbingly surreal world where people change identities faster than they can change clothes. Unfortunately, this production runs roughshod over the philosophical issues in Durang's script.
"'Dentity Crisis" suffers from the loud, harsh, shallow acting that mars much of the evening. There's potential for "'Dentity Crisis" to be as funny as "Ikke, Ikke, Nye, Nye, Nye" and as freaky as "Doll Woman," but all the performers (with the exception of Dawson) attack their parts like a bunch of obnoxious class clowns. The result is a production that seems to last forever--the audience is happy when it's finally over.
Corn Productions might be onto a good thing: they seem to be heading toward a night of raunchy vaudeville with a surreal twist. But their approach is too often intellectually lazy, which might be OK with a slightly tipsy audience but in a more sedate atmosphere doesn't cut it.