SORDIDO DELUXO, written and performed by Lee Smart, Doug Morency, Lisa Brooke, Mary Pat Farrell, Geri Hall and Paul Bates, directed by Bob Martin. At The Second City (56 Blue Jays Way) for an indefinite run. Monday-Thursday ($16) 8 pm, Friday ($20) and Saturday ($22) 8 and 10:30 pm. 343-0011. Rating: NNNNN
Right off the bat, under a single white spotlight in the pitch-black Second City mainstage space, a priestly Lee Smart and a wheelchair-bound paralytic confessor (Paul Bates) scream with horror-flick abandon for an interminable length of time. It's bloody murder.
And it sets the tone for Sordido Deluxo, the most screamingly hilarious SC revue in recent memory. Director Bob Martin has lit a fire under the high-energy asses of this wonderful cast, all of whom are featured prominently.
Three unfathomably obnoxious yuppie high-tech freaks (Smart, Bates and Doug Morency), who have "evolved" beyond the ability to read, hassle a tough, ultra-sexy restaurant server (newcomer Geri Hall). An institutionalized senior (Lisa Brooke) mistakes an audience member for a squirrel and bellows at him relentlessly to scare him away.
An ambitious female software company employee (Mary Pat Farrell) advances to the top of the corporate ladder through assault and battery. The whole cast recreates Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in absurd, bastardized Spanish. And before it's all over, both Christ and Satan are reborn. Classic stuff. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
In the state-of-the-art theatre, with Bob Derkach's sumptuous sound wizardry and the limitless imagination and flat-out solid acting chops of the entire ensemble, this is sketch comedy as it's supposed to be done. Not to be missed.
Saturday Night Live, eat your New York heart out. DJ
No Hat trick
THE HATS OF MR. ZENOBE, written and performed by Robert Astle, directed by Jim Jackson and Agnes Limbos. Presented by Alianak Theatre Productions at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to May 14, Thursday-Saturtday at 8 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $10-$24, stu/srs discount. 504-9971. Rating: NN
For his chutzpah alone, we should tip our hats to Robert Astle and his solo show The Hats Of Mr. Zenobe.
Astle starts out wanting to capture "all the ancient terrors of the 20th century... in one show." His inspiration, a man called Vahan Poladian, was an exiled Armenian who lost his family to genocide and war and was known for parading through French streets in outrageous costumes before his death in 1982.
Accompanied by a plastic duck, an empty picture frame and various suitcases and trunks, the clown-trained Astle adorns himself with outfits that grotesquely parody the state, the military and the Church.
The material, stretched out over two acts, obviously has significance for Astle, who keeps invoking Kunderan phrases like "theatre of forgetting" and "beauty and laughter."
But where's the beauty? Or laughter? Or pain beneath the clowning?
There are a few powerful moments, like when Astle becomes a dictatorial queen stepping on countries, or when he groans beneath the weight of a wooden door on his back, an image that bespeaks the exile's never-ending search for freedom and escape.
But even after reading the program notes, it's never clear what's happening onstage. This is as much the fault of Astle's unfocused script as it is of Jim Jackson and Agnes Limbos's hands-off direction.
In trying to capture the craziness of the past century's transgressions, the piece simply recreates chaos. That's neither entertaining nor informative. It's confusing. GS
Surrealism eats Crow's
DALI, written and directed by Jim Millan, with Richard Clarkin, Normand Bissonnette, Fiona Highet, Conor Green, Genevieve Langlois and Selina Martin. Presented by Crow's Theatre at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to May 20, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $20, Sunday pwyc. 531-1827. Rating: NNN
Zipping across the stage at the speed of a Roadrunner cartoon, Jim Millan's Dali is wacky, curiously affectionate, full of bizarre props and -- what else? -- surreal. A life of the famed painter/film collaborator/personality, the piece manages to pull in most of the history of the first half of the 20th century -- at least as it affected the egocentric, randy, self-dramatizing Dali.
As the key figure -- mustachioed, apparently, from birth -- Richard Clarkin does his best work in years, romping through a production that includes melting clocks, humongous eyeballs, celery bouquets and life-size stuffed sheep. The other energetic actors play a range of characters, from neurotic surrealists to worshipful American fans, but the standout is Genevieve Langlois as the icy Gala, Dali's wife/muse/lifeblood.
Since Millan designed the show's props as well, he can only blame himself if the visuals -- among them references to Hitchcock and Buñuel films -- sometimes swamp the text. But in this vaudevillian, non-linear, special-effects show, the flood brings only laughter. What other production could end with a C&W ballad for Catalan cowboys, with Hank Williams Jr. in attendance? JK