It's A Mediocre Life | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

It's A Mediocre Life

Strawdog Theatre Company

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

IT'S A MEDIOCRE LIFE, Strawdog Theatre Company. Well, it's a wonderful idea. In Paul Englehardt's sequel to Frank Capra's 1946 feel-good film classic, we find that second-class angel Clarence lost his wings when George Bailey spent his friends' savings to upgrade his house, drowning himself after all. So Clarence gets sent back to earth to reclaim another potential suicide. But this time his client, Richard Teemy, is a drug-dealing, blackmailing, Unabomber-loving, heart attack-inducing, hard-drinking arsonist responsible for his brother's paralysis and girlfriend's heartbreak, the town's pollution, and assorted avoidable deaths. As Clarence ruefully learns, the world would have been better off if Richard, the "Pottersville Flameboy," were never born.

Richard Teemy recalls Ring Lardner's and James Thurber's vicious-jerk heroes, who become such terrible role models they must be eliminated. Unfortunately, Strawdog's 55-minute parody wastes countless opportunities for comedy, from the hackneyed start--in which God and the Devil wager over Clarence's success--to the easy ending, whose twist changes nothing at all.

Never dropping energy but never catching fire, Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings's Strawdog staging plays this one-joke sketch for all it's worth. Jo Ann Oliver has fun as the perpetually delighted Devil, and Brian Posen as Clarence is glumly opportunistic while Sal Foto as Richard teems with slacker self-hatred. The plucky cast hurl themselves into their before-and-after caricatures, but Engelhardt hasn't given them the funny stuff to tap their talents. Sadly, it's a mediocre comedy.

--Lawrence Bommer

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →