Suspicious Clowns | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Suspicious Clowns

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Suspicious Clowns, Viable Theatre Company, at WNEP Theater. This young, edgy sketch-comedy troupe takes plenty of risks, but under director (and company member) Vincent Truman, the ensemble has trouble at times working as a team. Their comedy mostly revolves around the young urban experience--coffee dates, bar dates, Internet chat rooms, conversations with parents--but there are a few exceptions, such as a southern courtroom scene where a lawyer defends a monkey's right not to be a research subject. Despite the sketches' cliched milieu, the humor is dark, physical, and often quite funny, though at times the actors seem awkward, unfocused, or unsure of when a sketch should end.

The best bits morph into something ever more strange. A scene that seems to be about a quirky guy's application to art school turns into a sketch about a second (mostly naked) guy's application to become an artist's model and then into a parody of StreetWise vendors, with the naked guy standing on a corner chanting "Draw the homeless!" and passersby responding with phrases like "I drew at Clark and Division." That's the apex--followed immediately by the nadir: a man pantomimes masturbation, then spews white liquid on the other actors. For the most part, though, the seven ensemble members don't go for easy gross-out laughs, preferring to comment on issues like abortion, drug use, gender roles, and prostitution in a way that's fresh and even startling.

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