Playwright: Rick Watkins. At: Rick Watkins Productions at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2275 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-404-7336 or www.greenhousetheater.org; $40. Runs through Nov. 8
To be blunt, Rick Watkins' new comedy Knocking Up the Mob is groaningly inept in practically every way. From the annoyingly choppy pre-show music to the obviously signposted sight gag at the end, Knocking Up the Mob is a mess throughout.
It's safe to guess that Knocking Up the Mob writer/director Watkins wanted to create an inclusively diverse comedy. But the play's situations and characters often feel like throwbacks to less enlightened comedies from decades ago that brimmed with stereotypes bordering on the offensive.
Set in modern-day Chicago, Knocking Up the Mob focuses on a gay and ambitious gym co-owner named Josh ( Jordan Stafford ) who accidentally impregnates his former school bully, Angelina ( Avalon Kann ). As a member of a powerful Italian-American Pettrolini Mafia family, Angelina is strictly Catholic so an abortion is out of the question. So to prevent Josh from being bumped off, Angelina convinces him to play straight with a sham engagement to please her heavily accented parents ( played by Vito Vittore and Debra Rodkin, with lots of gesticulating ).
Did I also mention that Angelina's best friend is Latisha ( Donald Barnes ), a sexually predatory transgender woman whose behavior is not unlike Jamie Foxx's Wanda drag character from the TV show In Living Color? Or that Josh's business partner is an abrasively catty, swishy and often misogynistic gay man who goes by the nickname of "Bubbles" ( Michael Hora ) as he matches his earrings to his perpetual tracksuit? Oh yes, Angelina's grandfather, Papa Bettino ( Jack McCabe ), dresses like an African-American rapper and all his dialogue is written to make him sound like one.
If this all sounds labored and convoluted in terms of the meandering plotting, Knocking Up the Mob certainly is. You're often pitying the poor actors who have to perform this subpar material. Some try to transcend their dialogue, but it is very much an uphill battleespecially when Watkins actually has some of the characters, like butch baseball player Derrick ( Keith Surney ), make hypothetical passes at members of the audience in a "lesson" on how to come off as heterosexual.
Knocking Up the Mob also drops the ball with its very basic production values. Stephan Collins-Stepney's sound design is particularly frustrating. On opening night, most of the sound effects were inaccurately cued. You're also left pondering why the awful pre-show music is used over and over again to accompany the show's many scene changes.
With its horribly dated sensibilities, stereotypical characters, lackluster plotting and skimpy production values, there is very little to recommend for Knocking Up the Mounless audiences want to grimace through a painfully unfunny show that comes off as amateur all the way.