Old Man McGinty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Old Man McGinty

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Sketch-comedy group Old Man McGinty started life in the Bay Area a couple years ago, then several members relocated to Chicago and New York. Now they're reuniting for two performances at Chicago SketchFest (and one late-night gig Thursday, January 9, at ImprovOlympic, where former McGintyites Meridith Crosley and Ryan Gowland have been performing regularly for several months). Sean Owens, one of the funniest drag performers in the Bay Area--and Lord knows that's saying a lot--joins them (mostly sans female accoutrements) as well as Crosley's husband, Christopher Kuckenbaker, fresh from his performance as addled academic Bartleboom in an adaptation of Alessandro Barrico's novel Ocean Sea presented here. Rounding out the sextet are Heather Peroni and Michelle Talgarow. The group eschews the political and topical bent of old-school Bay Area companies like the Committee in favor of freewheeling, whimsical explorations of the American tendency to excess--in food, religion, sex, and general tackiness. Kuckenbaker, Crosley, and Talgarow all logged time with Art Street Theatre, a Suzuki/Viewpoints-inspired troupe, and their physical precision pays off in a number of the sketches I watched on tape, including one about finger-snappin', chantin' Buddhist street gangs who square off in a West Side Story-style spiritual battle. In other bits Crosley plays a wild-eyed Christian naif who recounts a liturgically suspect version of the Easter story, and Kuckenbaker and Gowland engage in a rapid-fire verbal battle over who has the moral right to eat the abandoned fat on a plate. The best of Old Man McGinty's work is infused with a sly existential desperation, and that rueful angst, combined with the troupe's verbally and physically acute style, raises them a few notches above other fresh-faced but facile sketch-comedy practitioners. Old Man McGinty performs as part of Chicago SketchFest at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252. Sunday, January 5, 7 PM; Wednesday, January 8, 9 PM. $12.50.

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