Unclean Thoughts | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Unclean Thoughts

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Players To Be Named Later, at Trap Door Theatre.

Having gazillions of supportive friends is almost always a blessing, but in improv it's a curse. When a crowd of family members and best friends hoots and hollers and applauds everything you do onstage, you're liable to get a little sloppy. Which is precisely what happened to the mildly talented and amiable Players To Be Named Later in Unclean Thoughts.

The audience response was way out of proportion to the Players' rather pedestrian collection of Second City-style improv games and sketches about such daring topics as fast-food drive-throughs and sadistic dentists. Moreover, it threw off their timing and concentration dreadfully, resulting in an only sporadically entertaining mess. Occasionally a couple of the ultraclean-cut members shine, most notably brothers Mark and Ralph Scott in a cheap but amusing sketch about marauding pirates who take over a luxury yacht and redecorate. The rest, though, often fall victim to shameless mugging and playing to the home crowd, as if this weren't a professional venture but a Players Workshop graduation show. And there's something unseemly about a group of indescribably white-bread comedians, performing before an even whiter-bread crowd, making jokes and doing horrific African-American accents in sketches about Mel Reynolds and Cabrini-Green and striking gangsta poses in a botched improvised rap number.

But then, what can you expect when the audience suggestion for a place onstage is "Mel Reynolds's pants"? Maybe on a night when the theater is empty, Unclean Thoughts might be tolerable.

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