Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Playwrights Get Spoofed

Imagine a bunch of theater geeks trying to do a sketch comedy show. The sketches would be filled with theater reference after theater reference. That’s essentially what you get with Loose Canon. Written by Brian Reno and Gabriel Vega Weissman, Loose Canon is a series of six comedic scenes inspired by the work of renowned playwrights from Shakespeare to Mamet. The idea is funny, well thought out and simply entertaining. To allow a theatrical through line, Reno and Vega Weissman began their parody journey in Ancient Greece and ended with modern times. What we got was Greecian kindergarteners, Shakespearean Amazon employees, Moliere at IKEA, Chekhovian Taco Bell, Beckett on a plane, and Mamet at Petco. Each piece borrowed elements, themes, characters, and lines from each playwright’s canon of work. If you're a theatrical scholar, you appreciated every reference you picked up on. If you're just there for the enjoyment, the pieces still stand on their own sans references a minute. Loose Canon started off strong but never quite reached that height again. “The Elmae” pulled you in instantly. And it worked as life to a 5 year old is truly like a Greek drama. To them, everything is like the end of the world. From there, the pieces were certainly fun but not nearly as great. Except maybe for that groan-inducing and painfully obvious “Happy Days” reference.
An ensemble of six formed the company of Loose Canon. Each appearing in a few sketches, for the most part, they were individually pretty funny. The breakout performer was Cynthia Nesbit. Nesbit can transcend style. She easily fit into every genre she was placed. That can't be said for some of the others. Todd Rizley held his own bringing an ease to his comedy. Grant Chamberlin was relegated to the stereotypes and accent-based characters filling the Fred Armisen role.
Director Logan Reed showed his ability to bring variety. Reed did a spectacular job highlighting the references in a smart way. He did not rely on the cheap laugh, allowing the comedy to speak for itself. The scenic design by Ravi Rakkulchon was pretty simple. With boxes that transformed into various configurations and the excellent choice of utilizing the revolving doors of the Kraine, less was definitely more. The music and sound by Zack McKenna was a strong choice as it was energetic and lively but bursting the eardrums of the audience is not usually a smart idea.
Loose Canon is a great concept and allowed for some funny moments. It lives on its own. But there is room for improvement to take it to the next level. And perhaps a new scene to replace the duds.