The Worly Building
By Rick Brown
Little did I know how many surprises awaited me at the ever-evolving Shadowbox Live’s new sketch comedy and rock n’ roll show Taboo. The fact that this superb theater troupe is … as James Brown used to brag … the hardest working in show business remains obvious. Actors, musicians and dancers wait tables, prepare audience members’ meals, serve drinks, and clean up afterwards. Even some not in the performance might be in the kitchen, at the bar, or serving tables. That’s been a guarantee since I began covering their performances almost 11 years ago.
The very first big surprise came early. After Bill Who?’s rousing rendition of the theme song … after David Whitehouse made his welcoming comments and opening remarks, he introduced a local comedian named Justin Golak. I had seen Mr. Golak last year during the stand up shows at the very first Columbus Brew Ha Ha, which included a sketch comedy competition. He was terrific.
But the beer and comedy festival has a much bluer hue joke-wise than the usual Shadowbox Live performances of late. And I believe toning down the use of F-bombs and such has been beneficial to the overall performances. But Justin Golak seemed a bit confined in his own material. He never let loose. Similarly, the audience never seemed to get over the surprise of a stand up comedian opening the show. Perhaps the crowd wasn’t sufficiently “warmed up”. I don’t know. Maybe Mr. Golak could hit his stride better opening the second half of the show.
Or better still, bound onstage unannounced after the night’s first song … Billy DePetro’s playfully prankish punk take on Green Day’s “Longview”. Much like the Ramones before them, Green Day (and in this instance Mr. DePetro) is a melodically loveable group of punksters who make the word “fuck” fun and almost inoffensive. I think this may get the crowd in a better groove for Golak’s performance, giving him … at the very least … a chance to be his usually edgier self.
Just a thought.
The second surprise of the evening was that the sketches in Taboo were nuanced rather than abrupt. Shadowbox Live’s writing continues to gain complexity, becoming layered and more intricate. Consequently, the emphasis for Taboo is less about mock and shock of society’s taboos, and more observationally humorous with how people deal with them … or don’t.
Three sketches stand out in this regard. “Good Driver Discount” not only lampoons every “save money with our insurance” ad campaign but it deconstructs just about every politically correct notion by showcasing, albeit seemingly unintentionally, just about every stereotype imaginable. So when I saw Brandon Anderson as “Black Guy” … which he IS … holding a bucket of fried chicken … the incredulous look on his face made me think seriously about the two sides of political correctness and its relationship to racism, ageism, sexism … hell …all the isms.
#1). Yes, it is racist to think all black guys love fried chicken.
#2). Yes, it is racist to think no black guys love fried chicken or should be seen holding a bucket of it.
That’s good writing and great humor. Maybe not everyone sees that. But if people are laughing I’m not sure it matters.
More edgy is “Faux Parents”. A group of parents are watching a Little League game when a guy admits he doesn’t have a son playing. He is just watching the game because he loves baseball. But the suspicions of the others make it clear they do not trust his intentions. Soon people begin confiding that they themselves have lied about being a father or mother … even bragging about what story they’ve fabricated. And while “inappropriate behavior” with children is never mentioned, this sketch not only exposes the paranoia of overly protective parents as well as the genuine justification for that. But the sketch also hints at what is at times hypocritically hidden in homes, schools and religious institutions.
Again, “Faux Parents” is at once both humorous and challenging intellectually … if one lets it be.
Lastly, “Waiting for Paradise” is a devilishly delightful skewing of religions. A group comprised of many denominations and faiths, all find themselves at heaven’s door … much to their surprise and chagrin. Each one of them thinks they are the one who belongs there while the others do not. And this attitude is pontifically punctuated when Atheist (David Whitehouse) arrives and admits to the holier than thou crowd that yes … indeed … he feels like a real DICK for making it to the afterlife.
There are also sketches that accentuate light heartedness … although “Unplugged” dwells on end of life issues with a wisecracking nod to slapstick. And “Face to Facebook” is a marvelous meltdown of Frank’s (Jimmy Mak) friends and family on a Facebook thread. “Coming Out and Going Home” is a wonderfully wacky skit about Benjy (Jimmy Mak), a college student visiting his parents (Robbie Nance and Stacie Boord). He has something profound to tell them both and the story line takes a hilarious and surprising turn. “Mr. Sniffles” is also a very entertaining video sequence about marketing a new product similar to bath salts. And while “Sensitive Susan” is a bit of fluff, any time anyone wants to ridicule Human Resources I’m on board 100%.
Speaking of surprises … the third and final one for me during Taboo is the music. I think this might be the very first Shadowbox production I have ever seen that is not dominated by 60’s and 70’s music. So the tunes seem fresher in relation to the sketches dominated by current themes. And since Shadowbox Live’s successful musical “Underland” (which is now playing Sundays) has only songs from the 60’s this is a smart move.
Stephanie Shull’s reluctantly obsessing “Don’t Stand So Close To Me (The Police) is great. Tom Cardinal intensely torches the vocals to Living Colour’s “Desperate People”. Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” gets a quirky, fun, yet notably naughty take by Noelle Grandison. And Edelyn Parker smokes on “Head Like a Hole” (Nine Inch Nails).
But my personal favorite of the show is “I’m So Sick” by Flyleaf. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this tune before … or of the band for that matter. But Nikki Fagin’s dynamically desperate singing backed with the vocal intensity of Jennifer Hahn while “patients” danced onstage … it all came together with an eerie beauty seamlessly. Everything … including the tune … was new to me … and exhilarating.
Closing out the show is JT Walker III (He was our server as well) belting out the only 1960’s song in the production, Joe Cocker’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned”. Mr. Walker gives the number a terrific gospel, call and response treatment that finalizes the evening perfectly.
Shadowbox Live’s Taboo is a multileveled, balanced, entertainingly astute, gem of a performance. Much like a good baseball game, the show can be appreciated casually … or moment by moment. Taboo is the kind of production that can be enjoyed more than once and most certainly contains elements that will surely reappear in a future “Best of Shadowbox Live” presentation.
Taboo runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. until June 8th. For more information please go to: www.shadowboxlive.org
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
By Rick Brown
Scene: the inside of a small and charming children’s clothing and toy store. Most of the merchandise is geared for infants and toddlers. The walls and furnishings are bright pastels. A Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest is perusing the baby clothes racks in the middle of the room. Her baby sleeps soundly cuddled next to her in the sling. A service counter with a computer setting on it is stage left. Behind it is a Young Woman Employee. She too is wearing a baby sling, hers on her back. Inside the sling is a doll, a sort of “pretend” baby. Rick enters through the front door stage right.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back (brightly and politely) – Good afternoon sir. May I help you?
Rick – Uh … yeah. I’m looking for a baby shower gift.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her back – How much did you want to spend?
Rick – That all depends … 60 or 75 bucks. A little more if it’s something somewhat elaborate yet necessary.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – Did you have something in mind?
Rick – (a tad nervously) Not really. I don’t have experience with babies. The only time I was around them much I was one myself.
The Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back smiles and chuckles.
Rick – The couple is registered here. Wouldn’t they have a list of stuff or something?
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – Of course. Let’s take a look at the computer.
The Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest smiles warmly in Rick’s direction and continues to look through the racks of clothing intently.
Rick gives The Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back the information about the couple.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – Well they needed a carrier but I see someone has purchased one for them. We do have reusable diapers. That’s always a great gift.
Rick – Reusable diapers?
The Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back motions for
Rick to follow her. She takes him stage right to a display hanging on the wall. She pulls off 3 diapers in different colors.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – See these are colorful, pretty and they work incredibly well.
Rick – Soooo … the baby does their business in these and then you wash them and use them again?
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – Yes, yes. They are quite effective … very popular item. $20 each so you could buy 3 and spend what you intended.
Rick – And these reusable diapers are called … uh … BUM GENIUS?
Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest’s Baby – Gurgle, gurgle … ZZZZZZ.
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back - Bum Genius yes … get it? Cute name. Very popular item. I’m sure your friends would really appreciate a gift like this.
Rick (Scratching his head.) – I dunno. Reusable diapers? Doesn’t seem like a very romantic sort of gift to me.
Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest (After bursting out laughing quite loudly) – Some of our friends bought us so called “romantic” baby gifts and we ended up returning a lot of them.
Rick – Really?
Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest – Yes we did. A baby needs diapers not trinkets. I know your friends would appreciate something practical that they’ll use instead of a “romantic” present. Trust me. They will love this gift.
Rick (Enthusiastically) Okay then! Pragmatism it is!! Gimme not one … not two … but THREE BUM GENIUSES!!
Young Mother Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Chest – herself
Baby in Sling on Young Mother’s Chest – her/his gurgling, cooing sleeping self
Young Woman Employee Wearing a Baby Sling on Her Back – herself
Pretend Baby in Sling on Young Woman Employee’s Back – her/his pretend self
Rick – his “fish out of water” self
C. Mehrl Bennett
Opening an old notebook,
Ink stained and brown,
I found a note from myself
Like a private code
Sounding like a stranger
Who once used my name.
Philosophy says “I think
I was, So therefore
I must have been.”
Nearly forty years ago,
In student days with
With a bearded frown,
For only the young can
Waste so much time
In a studied state
I spent a lot of time
Jotting down quotes.
So many pages of
Now they all
Sound like postcards
From a clown.
The past so often
It's like bumping into
A forgotten mate
Who knows your name.
They speak in such familiar
Tones of days you find
Best forgotten and you
Quietly wait until they leave,
Seeking inspiration from
book, Best Bites is available at:
Lulu.com & Amazon.com
Hmmm # 60
Call it ½ empty.
Call it ½ full.
½ a glass.
Hmmm # 61
the female version
Hmmm XL # 1
… and HOT.
But does she have to
with her BUTT CHEEKS
400 lb. woman
The Worly Building
By Rick Brown
In a Car at Midday
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Scene: A very small room in a tiny department library on the campus of a very large state university. Rick is sitting at a table across from the 50s-ish Head Librarian, center stage. Seated next to him is the 40s-ish Reference Librarian and part time 30s-ish Assistant Librarian. Behind them are two 20s-ish staff members and several fresh-faced college students who work there as well. It is the early 1980s and everyone is dressed fashionably so. … or not.
50s-ish Head Librarian (Her voice is melodic yet lilting with implied authority and import) – Let’s begin the interview shall we? Now I realize Mr. Brown that you are applying for a 50% position here in our cozy library. But it is indeed an important one, since you will need to know everything there is to run this fine library. Sometimes you will open … sometimes you will close … you will work both public service as well as technical service. And THAT… is specifically why our entire staff is present for this interview.
Rick – I see.
The 40s-ish Reference Librarian, 30s-ish Assistant Librarian and two 20s-ish staff members nod robotically in agreement. The fresh-faced college students appear bored.
50s-ish Head Librarian – Have you met everyone?
Rick – Yes, earlier on my arrival.
50s-ish Head Librarian – Fine! Fine! First let me ask you then … what inspired you to apply for this position?
Rick – Well … you see … I already have a 50% position in the circulation department at Main and I’d like to work full time.
40s-ish Reference Librarian (peering over her reading glasses) – And by “Main” I assume you are referring to the Main … Library here on campus?
Rick (a tad flippantly) – Of course.
A 20s-ish Staff Member – Being the circulation desk supervisor, I am curious as to what your personal philosophy of public service is.
Rick pauses to think momentarily.
Rick – It’s simple really. They take ‘em out … they bring ‘em back!
50s-ish Head Librarian (slowly opening a very large three ring binder) – This is The Operating Manual for our department library and I will be referring to it in the course of our remaining conversation. Now … And I feel that I speak for the faculty and staff present … I am not certain I know what you mean by your statement. Can you clarify please?
Rick – It’s the motto from the Rick Brown School of Library Science … my metaphor naturally. But it means material is leant and then returned when the patron is finished using it. Everything else is simply embellishment.
The 50s-ish Head Librarian, 40s-ish Reference Librarian and 30s-ish Assistant gasp loudly, in unison, and begin to fidget. The fresh-faced college students giggle.
50s-ish Head Librarian (indignantly) - I SEE! Well then. I realize this is merely a 50% position but I assure you once more it is vital to our operation! So let me ask you this Mr. Brown. (Continuing with a cold stare and dripping with sarcasm) Tell us your long-term career goals if you will please.
Rick – Hmm … Long-term career goals? Long … term … career… goals?
Rick ponders briefly.
Rick (Looking directly at the 50s-is Head Librarian) - If I had any I wouldn’t be interviewing for this job would I?
More loud gasps emanate from the 2 staff members and all three librarians.
The fresh-faced college students laugh.
50s-ish Head Librarian (Slamming The Operating Manual shut and with exaggerated indignation.) – Well! This interview is OVER!
Rick – Yes. … yes … I guess it is.
50s-ish Head Librarian – her haughty self
40s-ish Reference Librarian – her stuffy self
30s-ish Assistant Librarian – her supportive haughty, stuffy self
Two 20-ish staff – their Civil Service selves
Fresh-faced college students – their fresh-faced giggling selves
The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Home and Garden Show
By Rick Brown
Scene: The home improvement section of a home and garden show. The stage is lined with a wide diversity of booths hawking everything from kitchen remodeling, basement sealing, deck building, etc. Rick and lifelong friend Judy are lazily strolling past each booth mostly ignoring sales pitches, offers of free literature, and drawing entries pitched loudly by the barkers in each booth.
Rick – I certainly enjoy the garden building better than this.
Judy – Yeah, but it’s fun just wandering around.
Rick – I do enjoy our annual post retirement “date” of lunch followed by the home and garden show. I think this is our third year. It’s like we’re an old married couple for an afternoon.
They both chuckle.
Judy – Me too.
Rick – But you know … my dogs are barkin’. And I think we’ve seen just about all there is to see … except for that cute Amish chick that was here last year selling that composite patio furniture.
Judy rolls her eyes at her “husband for the afternoon”.
Judy – Well, I was hoping to look at some flooring but I haven’t seen anyone selling it.
Rick (pointing) – Look! There’s a place up ahead displaying flooring.
Judy – Panel Town? It’s called Panel Town?
Rick – Oh YEAH!! Years ago I bought some pergo laminate flooring from the MAYOR of PANEL TOWN!
Judy (slightly sarcastically) – You … know … the mayor … of Panel Town?
Rick (feigning emphasis) – YESSSS … yes … I … DO!
Judy (more sarcastically) – Really? Okay then. What’s her NAME?
Rick – his husband for the afternoon self
Judy – her wife for the afternoon self
Cute Amish Chick – her simply absent self
The Mayor of Panel Town – her (or his) honorable in absentia self
The Worly Building