The Talent Pool | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Talent Pool

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THE TALENT POOL, Beatnik Theatre, at the Chopin Theatre. It's no surprise when a young company like this one puts out uneven work. The Talent Pool, which Patrick Ney developed through improv with the Beatnik Theatre, attempts to lampoon the bloodthirsty, ass-kissing, frenzied feeding troughs known as casting agencies. But rather than develop a story or even sustained through lines, Ney and colleagues spend most of their 90 minutes fiddling with petty crises and personality quirks. And as is often the case with improv-based dialogue, the actors tend to repeat their thoughts a half dozen times hoping to eke out a laugh, repeatedly putting the show on hold.

What's surprising is how good the good spots are. Some of the character work is exquisite. John Creighton as the hyper-ambitious, talent-free actor Stan Gilmore is a holy terror, and Kellie Halihan's squeaky-clean Machiavellian agent, Tammy, is a marvel of ingenious incongruities. And when the group lets go of shtick in favor of scene work--as when two actors audition for a Remco commercial as though they were performing Shakespeare--the results are quite strong. If Beatnik can develop their playwriting skills and expunge a latent antigay attitude (one character complains that actors are either "assholes, gay, or crazy"), they may produce some serious entertainment. --Justin Hayford

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