JUDGING VALENTINO, Taking Care of Business, at the Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio. If there's a redeeming aspect to Eric Francque's dismal comedy, it's that it simultaneously lowers our expectations of theater and raises our tolerance level. After sitting through this inept satire of western Illinois bumpkins, I'm willing to rethink The Blob: The Musical and a couple of ghastly improv shows.
Dixon native Francque writes, directs, and stars as Alan Carpenter, a publisher of Esquire (oh, really?) who tires of the pettiness and jealousy of New York and leaves for the innocent pleasures of small town America, only to find that tiny Dixon is just as perverted and mean-spirited as Manhattan. Instead of honest, hardworking Americans, Carpenter finds only floozies, misfits, and cow fuckers who try to blame him for the abduction and molestation of a Dixon child.
The harebrained plot represents only about 10 percent of the problems with Judging Valentino, however. There's virtually no structure. Scenes meander or jerk to a stop on a laugh line. Humorless dream sequences and loopy dance numbers pop out of nowhere. References to and jokes about child abuse and bestiality are at best tasteless. Settings are so vague that at times we don't know whether we're in a diner, apartment, video store, or police station. The conclusion is so arbitrary it seems to have been triggered by an alarm. If there's talent in Francque's cast, this stultifying show disguises it. And if there's been a weaker show this year, fortunately I've forgotten it.