Tuesday, June 08, 2010

That Old Soft Shoe

It's a good thing that Matt Freeman's That Old Soft Shoe doesn't live up to its subtitle ("A redacted comedy"). It would be a real war crime to censor out such wincingly charming pop-cultural references; it would be a shame to dismantle Freeman's mix of obliviously wry torturers and obviously manic politicians--they're quite explosive together. No redactions, just reductions--that is, the gleefully simple satire that comes by merely stating the sad facts of our country. (Reductio ad Americanum.) Consider this exchange between a new recruit, Horace (Carter Jackson), and an old contractor, Julian (David DelGrosso): "Didn't we use to have to ask a judge?" "We did forever. Then we didn't for a few years. Then we did again. Now, we don't." "That's what I call progress."

In the event that all the double-talk around torture, within Freeman's play, or in the previous paragraph has in any way confused you: That Old Soft Show is wholly entertaining. It's also fairly clever, using the tactics of the Enemy against it--directly, as when it introduces the new acronym for torturing prisoners (COMFORT, as opposed to SERE), or subtly, as when one employee remembers fondly the old days when they could play music without licensing fees--as if fees were the problem with sleep deprivation. There's also an excellent running gag about whether or not their methods are aversion therapy and, if so, whether or not they should be referred to as aversion therapy. (To wit, the program they're currently running is filed under the president's fitness program.)

The show, directed by Freeman's long-time collaborator Kyle Ancowitz, flies along, particularly once the fast-talking and salacious Senator Corpuscle (Steve Burns) shows up. Moreover, the entire cast, from the disgruntled Heather (Laura Desmond) to the military Gretchen (Maya Ferrara), kill on their lines, from the literate--"I want to be R. Crumb for you"--to the pop-cultural: "Does he just like watching TV and being Snooki punched?" Silence is handled well, too, thanks to Joseph Yeargain, who plays The Patient (a k a, the prisoner) like a forlorn puppy that has learned all too well to play dead. There are even some traces of deeper character, though for the most part, they're not meant to be much more than mouthpieces for Freeman's righteous political comedy: Jackson does a fairly good Rob Lowe impersonation, and it's always nice to see DelGrosso trying to be the voice of reason.

That Old Soft Shoe isn't particularly deep, but then again, it's promised to be sole-ful--fast on its feet--not soulful. Shock-value lines ("Martin Luther King was not shot for nothing" and "Before the Armenians genocide me") rule the day here, not the emotional subtlety of a show like Adam Bock's The Receptionist. It may be part of the Too Soon festival at the Brick, but Freeman can comfortably hang that "Mission Accomplished" banner at his next cast party: this one's just in the nick of time.

1 comment:

俊茹 said...