What a wonderful feeling it must be for Chicago's gay and lesbian sketch comedy troupe GayCo to have a secured home at the new Hoover-Leppen Theatre in the Center on Halsted. Now if only GayCo had attracted ( or papered ) a sold-out crowd to the opening night of its latest revue iHole.
Playwright: GayCo Ensemble. At: GayCo at Center on Halsted's. Hoover-Leppen Theatre, 3656 N. Halsted. Phone: 800-838-3006; $15. Runs through: Oct. 20
Sorry to say that the opening-night audience didn't get GayCo's ingenious spoofing of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey at the top of iHole. Instead of a towering black monolith worshipped by prehistoric simians, GayCo comments on our own techno-obsessions of today by replacing it with an enormous Apple iPod.
That enormous slick iPod introduces and counts down the sketches in iHole, and is augmented by two side screens that spoof those ubiquitous iPod dancing silhouettes. It's all a handsome framing device, but what GayCo offers up isn't quite as polished as it could be.
GayCo certainly isn't bereft of great ideas. iHole is right on target, with its skewering of quirks about the gay community and its pop-culture obsessions. It's just that there is something lacking in the execution, energy or just that final finishing comic button that made many sketches feel limp on opening night.
Part of the problem is that some ensemble members are not up to the comic levels of their co-stars in iHole. Whether playing an aged Jane Addams trying to rehabilitate ex-Titan male porn stars or a woman on the phone disputing the bizarre sex-related charges on her credit card bill, Mandy Price consistently knocked her sketches out of the park.
Price's co-stars offer up funny stuff, like Judy Fabjance's comic song about under-the-surface resentments of being a non-biological lesbian mother and Kelly Beeman's sure-fire way to pick up dates at T's bar in Andersonville. It's just that the two women pale in comparison to Price.
The guys—Jim Bennett, Andy Eninger and Robin Trevino—each offers more comic consistency, particularly Eninger's very telling song about small-town gay guys who emigrate to Chicago to lead 'cosmopolitan' yet ultimately conventional lives. Still, some sketches—like the time-traveling powers of the new iPhone and a 'suspicious-looking package on the CTA'— needed an extra oomph to set the audience in stitches.
I'm not sure how iHole director Mary Beth Burns could have pushed the performers to spin more zip into the show, especially since I found bits about Prairie Home Longtime Companion and the life-cycle of the 17-year 'ci-gay-da' to be hilarious. Unfortunately, the spotty audience attendance on opening night didn't exactly help the laughs to flow.