Macabaret | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Porchlight Theatre Ensemble, at Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, Lab Theater.

Your local Halloween haunted house has got nothing on the creepiness of modern American society. This seems to be the premise behind Scott Keys and Robert Hartmann's wittily ghoulish musical revue Macabaret, which juxtaposes Addams Family-style sketches with pointedly satirical songs about the American spook house of doctor-assisted suicide, domestic violence, emotionless sex, and staggering ennui.

Loaded with 22 clever, tuneful songs, the 70-minute revue is an entertaining vehicle for Porchlight Theatre's polished, charismatic cast; it falters only when it focuses more on getting cheap laughs than on dealing with the larger issues raised. For the first half of the show Keys and Hartmann do an excellent job of building from vaudeville shtick ("Dead End Job") and Rocky Horror jokiness ("Scatter My Ashes") to a lovely, moving ballad about fear and loneliness ("Love Me in the Light"). But after this sublime moment the author-composers shy away from profundity, offering a disjointed collection of loopy ditties, including a Manhattan Transfer-style number ("Boogie Woogie Boogieman") and a pickin' and grinnin' tune ("R.I.P.") that owes a great debt to Hee Haw.

This is a bummer, because all the ingredients for a really stunning show are here--unusually skilled composers, lyricists, and performers. If the authors could combine the well-crafted but often disconnected songs with characters and a plot they might really have something. What they now have will probably be a success only on the late-night cult circuit.

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