Playwrights: Becca Levine, John Loos and Alex Vanover-Miller. At: The Brendas at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St. Tickets: 800-650-6449 or www.pubhousetheatre.com; $10. Runs through: Aug. 28
It could be easy to write off The Brendas' new sketch comedy show Who is Gabi Grayskull? That's because the answer to the show's title is essentially lifted from Noel Coward's 1956 comedy Nude with Violin, which also heavily suggests that there's an Emperor's New Clothes aspect to the pretentiousness and inflated monetary values of the modern art world.
But if you can look beyond this copying of Coward, Who is Gabi Grayskull? is still loads of fun as it comically mocks many subsets of people who make, market and purchase art.
Written and performed by GayCo veterans Becca Levine, John Loos and Alex Vanover-Miller, Who is Gabi Grayskull? is a smart and very observant show that weaves its many wacky characters through an assortment of comic and partially improvised sketches that shoot at art targets both high and low.
The show begins with interweaving monologues of three characters' views of the elusive found-art artist Gabi Grayskull, whose true identity is unknown like the real-life mysterious graffiti artist Banksy. While some are jealous of Gabi Grayskull's weird work and call her a fraud ( particularly Levine as the New Mexico-based wind-chime artist Karen Winters ), others express their undying admiration for ( like Loos' gross-out performance artist "Toff," who boasts about one of his works involving stuffing taco meat up his anus ).
The sketches that follow focus specifically on those who have dealt directly with Gabi Grayskull, like Levine as the condescending art gallery owner Yvonne who shows plenty of contempt while being interviewed by an intern for the glossy Michigan Avenue magazine. Other sketches only mention Gabi Grayskull in passing, like the one with Loos and Levine as two bitchy friends at a Bottle and Bottega wine and painting event who find out that the only thing they have in common is trashing their coworker, Peg Bradley ( Vanover-Miller ).
The hard-working and very funny cast of Who is Gabi Grayskull? work well with director Tyler Dean Kempf to keep the whole show breezy and enjoyable. They're all great with many crazy characterizations that include nouveau riche rubes at a cruise ship "fine art" auction to elderly craft artists who conceal their underlying murderous sides.
Unlike other sketch-comedy shows, Who is Gabi Grayskull? is savvy at maintaining an overarching theme to tie everything together. So even if the end result is ultimately cribbed from Noel Coward's Nude with Violin, Who is Gabi Grayskull? still impresses with its cleverness and cutting comic commentary on what constitutes "art."