Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog Exclusive Review: The Somewhat Gelatinous Blob From Beyond The Grave (And Also the Grave's in Outer Space!)

So this is another one of those not-really reviews. Julia Weiss, the playwright, and I actually did a show together at the Cornservatory a couple of years ago, and we've stayed friendly since. But as I wanted to see the show (full title above, henceforth referred to as Blob) and the people at the Cornservatory wanted me to write about it, they were gracious enough to provide comps for me.

The show is a parody of 1950's-era B Movies with absurd monsters at the center. It's a genre ripe for parody--the films' cheapo productions values, confusing plots, clunky dialogue, and bizarre acting style are hilarious on their own. If done sloppily, a spoof would be more grating than funny--it's too easy to go way over the top. At its best, however, Blob simply puts one extra twist on top of the existing absurdity, and the results are sidesplitting. There are parts that go too long or get too broad, but there's more than enough of the best parts to make it a very fun show--especially for those who take advantage of the theatre's BYOB policy.

The plot involves the attack by the B.L.O.B. (Daniel Polonka), which stands for "Boogeranious Lifeform Orginating from Bylopsia X-25," we soon learn) on Washington DC. It's eating people, leaving behind only their metal jewelry, and no conventional weapons can stop it. Mr. President (Steve Thomas) and his advisors (David Kaniuk, Jim McDaniel, and Michael Schmitt) quickly come to the conclusion that the disappearing people must be the result of the "Commumicks": Irish Communists--Communist because they're destroying America, Irish because of the frequent appearance of the color green at the scene of the disappearance. They're so sure of themselves that they ignore the increasingly frantic insistences of Smittie (Kevin Anderson), a goevernment scientist, that they have a B.L.O.B. on their hands. Soon they send Smittie to rescue Midge (Katherine Schwartz), the President's daughter, from the office of the Sherriff (Matt Gripe), where she has been since seeing her boyfriend eaten by the B.L.O.B. Of course love will blossom between them as they race to the Pentagon to save America.

It's incredibly silly stuff, of course. But huge sections of it are deliriously funny. Anderson and Schwartz are just about perfect: they play the scenes straight enough to let the absurdity of the script shine through. It's also some of the best writing in the play, especially Smittie's ludicrously dramatic monologues. The rest of the play often rises to that level--McDaniel is particularly spot-on in his variety of roles. But there are sections where things are played too broadly: there are too many scenes of the B.L.O.B. wreaking destructions on innocents and they all go on for too long, a few characters are saddled with one-joke personalities, and there are points when it threatens to go off the rails.

But it doesn't. Despite the flaws, the whole thing's performed with enough commitment that it all works. (Credit director Anneliese Toft for keeping the cast mostly on the same page.) It won't change your life, but there are many moments when you'll laugh your ass off.

Blob... runs Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM through March 27th at the Cornservatory, 4210 N Lincoln Ave. Tickets, $7-15, at 312-409-6435 or http://www.cornservatory.ord/.

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