Playwright: written and performed
by the Headcheese Fat Boss Ensemble
At: Headcheese Fat Boss at
the Apollo Studio, 2540 N. Lincoln
Phone: 773-935-9336; $12
Runs through: Aug. 20
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
How do you evaluate a sketch comedy show where the most successful elements are the ones that don't require the creators to be physically present? Take the quirky costumes, for instance, such as fur-trimmed goggles with attached beard for a fin-de-siécle bicyclist. And there are the props—especially the spinning magic-whatsis discovered by sylvan elves in an innocent-looking picnic basket. Or there is the astonishingly literate scenario framing the evening's action, for that matter.
The last involves a sensitive-artist playwright hired by a pair of cattle barons to write promotional copy for their products. Given creative carte blanche, unlimited time and a generous budget, the author assembles a film crew to make infomercials in the cinematic styles of famous directors: John Carpenter ( 'See it and you're dead meat!' warns the trailer, 'What's eating you?' ) and, inevitably, Martin Scorsese, with a humble restaurant owner arousing the ire of his mobster customers by adding 'unmanly' salads and pork chops to his menu. ( 'Who ordered the butternut squash? Huh? Are you a squash, Butter Nuts?' a thug taunts his victim. 'Naw, you're a tomato—and now you're tomato SAUCE!' )
In a evening running a smidgen over an hour, however, the attempt to introduce a second application of the advertising-in-America theme in the form of a robot-android who speaks only in jingles doesn't engage us quickly enough. A sketch of Laugh-In vintage featuring a flashing granny—ooooh, aren't you shocked?—is too much set-up for too little payoff.
But Danna Bohne's silent clowning skills are as impressive as they are winsome, and the dizzying array of carnivore gags in the pro-beef sequences clearly evidences some sophisticated brains working behind the scenes of Headcheese Fat Boss, even to the sly pun in the show's title. Cutting away some of the—well, fat—from Brand New Bag's program would leave a lean and funny off-night entertainment appealing to a variety of tastes.