Sunday, October 23, 2011

THEATER: The Complete World of Sports [abridged]

Photo/Meghan Moore
Though the core members have come and gone over the years, the Reduced Shakespeare Company (best known for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged]) is as thankfully hyperactive as ever: they'll need that stamina to win audiences over throughout the various hits and misses that make up their four-quarter "abridgathon," The Complete World of Sports [abridged]. Their low-budget, sketch-happy, motor-mouthed skewering of the roughly "3,477.3" sports out there does fairly well with generalities: what it lacks in the satiric chops of, say, the Onion Sports Network, it more than makes up for in slapstick. The result is rough yet entertaining, filled with both fumbles and hundred-yard-returns, and their encyclopedic range allows for some clever segments: Karl Marx and Michael Moore arguing in favor of football, a brief demonstration of bullfighting's blatant inhumanity, the asinine difference between "sports" and "games" (if it's on ESPN, it's a sport), and a Lehrer-like reinvention of fight songs.

Given the company's pedigree, however, it's a shame that so much seems merely passable. Sports are so often mocked that a lot of targets seem especially low-hanging: "Hey, baseball's pretty boring, right?" or "You realize, if you take this innocuous broadcaster's comments out of context, it totally sounds homosexual." (The company does itself no favors in quoting from the great Yogi Berra, who would give his right arm to be ambidextrous.) In turn, this brings down the more original moments: an actual "fantasy" league, replete with Klingons and Jedi, or a conflated breakdown of cliches and mixed metaphors from films and coaches. A team is only a strong as its weakest link, so its safe to say that some segments should have been benched: unresolved bits on boxing and Australia come to mind, as does the twenty-minute climax, the "Olympish Tricotakaidathlon," which offers nothing you haven't already seen in the previous eighty minutes.

As for the audience-participation, the less said, the better. There's a reason fans aren't allowed on the field during the actual game, and that's because they pale in comparison to a well-oiled unit like Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor (who have been writing and directing together since 1992) and their fellow thespiathlete, Matt Rippy, who joined the company in 1996. It's their enthusiasm that carries even the silliest scenes (and wackiest wigs), and it's their faux naivety -- particularly Rippy's -- that allows the audience to laugh with them. And while it's not the greatest sign that even the seemingly ad-libbed moments of Sports [abridged] are scripted -- the group shouldn't need self-deprecating recoveries for failed jokes -- it's at least reassuring that the RSC is determined to make you (and the family) laugh at all costs. Bad sports cliche or not, they've got heart.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recommendation: The Pumpkin Pie Show

Several times now, I've had last minute things come up that conspire to keep me from covering this year's annual dose of The Pumpkin Pie Show, the creepily poetic show from Clay McLeod Chapman that turns real-life horror stories (the supernatural need not necessarily apply; the world is frightening enough) into potent monologues. This year's showcase, "Lovey Dovey" features performances both from Pumpkin regulars Chapman and partner-in-crime Hanna Cheek as well as live music from Kyle Jarrow's band, Sky-Pony. It's both the treat and the trick I'm getting this Halloween, and you can catch it this final weekend (Thursday - Saturday) at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st and A).