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Oui Be Negroes

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OUI BE NEGROES, Underground Theatre Conspiracy, at Cafe Voltaire. I used to think Second City should pass out T-shirts with "It's a White Thing" printed on the back. In Chicago, improv and even stand-up comedy are the stomping ground of the white middle and upper classes, with few exceptions. Which means that after a while the jokes get repetitive.

Oui Be Negroes--a collection of improv sketches and games performed by the Underground Theatre Conspiracy, a five-member troupe with one lone Caucasian--raises hope that it will be more daring and controversial than scads of improv revues around town. But though much of Oui Be Negroes is amusing and pleasant, there's nothing particularly inventive or memorable about it.

The oddest thing about this revue is that the scenes that worked best the night I attended were the spontaneous ones. A scripted sketch about a pushy Avon saleswoman and another about a young woman hitting her grandfather up for money were uncomfortably predictable, telegraphing their limp punch lines early on. The funniest parts of the evening included an inspired, extemporaneous riff on a radical feminist poet who creates a Green Mill-style political poem out of audience suggestions. And maybe I was just sucking helium, but I laughed hardest at a loopy impersonation of Star Trek's Captain Kirk getting zapped by a phaser.

Oui Be Negroes is strictly run-of-the-mill improv. Nothing bad. But nothing to write home about either.

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