Thursday, June 17, 2010

HACK! (an I.T. Spaghetti Western)

Ah, postmodern theater: where once we enjoyed the Greeks, now we embrace the Geeks. Following in the giddy footsteps of Vampire Cowboys, Nosedive, and Piper McKenzie, Impetuous Theater Group has collected the five episodes of their self-proclaimed "I.T. Spaghetti Western," Hack! into a "live DVD" performance--complete with copyright warnings, menu screens, and delightfully campy "Previously on" and "Next time on" trailers. This is the theatrical equivalent of YouTube or Channel101-type digital shorts, and if you're a film-savvy nerd--or someone with a healthy funny bone--you should stop reading and get a ticket before they sell out.

For those of you somehow on the fence: Crystal Skillman's script is littered with clever puns (Tchaikovsky shoes, which make great nutcrackers) and appropriates pop-culture references left and right, particularly in its verbing of the proper noun Lando (as in Calrissian, as in  "You totally Landoed me!"). It's fast-paced and smart enough to keep shaking things up: what starts as a nerd-off between I.T. duo Dash (the scene-stealing Neimah Djourabchi) and Jay (C.L. Weatherstone) soon becomes complicated by their terse, cigar-clenching boss Cal (Joseph Mathers). To identify the hacker, they call in The Soldier (the terrific Kate Kenney), who turns out to be a cute ten-year-old girl; who turns out to be a vicious, knife-wielding brat; who turns out to be a beanie-baby-loving psychopath; who turns out to--ahem, suffice to say, the show never gets boring. At worst, it gets too slow, as in the expository scenes between Cal and his counter-terrorism brother, Brian (Mark Souza, largely stuck playing the straight man), or too gratuitous, as with the holographic dance of Big Jessica (Lauren Schroeder), but it's in such good fun that it's not worth critiquing.

John Hurley's up-tempo direction also neatly fits with the Hack! model. Benjamin Kato's set is a three-foot-high barricade between the audience and the stage, so the actors often look--and act--like puppets, which works in a show filled with spit-takes, broad comedy (Dash on Red Bull and diet pills), and constant homages (watch for a "spy" sequence that might as well be lifted from Ace Ventura). Not only does Hurley poke fun of their low-budget scene changes (characters elevator themselves to the ground), but he uses the pop-up effect for surprise entrances, like that Erica (Felicia Hudson, who seems to have studied up on the Joss Whedon school of ass-kicking love interests). Between his direction and Skillman's writing, they've give the show serious moves--that is, they make mock kung-fu styles like the "Retarded Dolphin" look terrific.

Hack! just goes to show you that the old saying is true: "All you need is love." Well, love, bad accents, Battleship boards doubling as laptop computers, fight choreography, and--what?--yes, Hannah Montana karaoke. That's right, all you gray-hat theatergoers: get your spaz on.

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