KILL THE MESSENGER, at Second City E.T.C. Second City alumnus and Remains Theatre veteran David Pasquesi takes conventional stand-up and turns it into a literal lie-down. In the show's seemingly straightforward first half, writer-performer Pasquesi offers cunning commentary. He describes how during a car wreck his life passed before his eyes but he was edited out of the final cut. Linking sex and hate, he compares marriage to a bad tattoo; years later, you wonder why you branded yourself. He pillories Midway Airport, where the passengers are strictly steerage and the children lack shirts.
But early on Pasquesi also adds unsettling elements. He offers a medical disclaimer, saying that he may need to defecate in his pants. His control-freak abuse of his stage manager (Pat McKenna) invites retribution. And after he cuts himself juggling, everything goes downhill. His hand wrapped in bandages, he forces out a monologue despite blood loss to the brain. He tries to prove a point through paint, then faints from the fumes. A dream sequence exposes his fantasies about his lovely assistant (Kerry O'Brien). And by the end, when he cracks jokes over his own dead body, we're meant to feel the pain behind the laughs.
Andy Kaufman knew how to deliver this kind of apparently spontaneous self-destruction. But as directed by Leo Benvenuti, Pasquesi seems too brainy, too levelheaded and careful to play this character. Even artificiality requires art. And as if to punish us for finding him funny, he poops on his own show. --Lawrence Bommer