The Jack Miller Show with Rod Crawford, Rebecca Northan, Lisa Merchant, Peter Oldring and Albert Howell. Presented by Mudbug Productions at the Tim Sims Playhouse. Runs to August 27, Wednesdays 9 pm. $15, stu $13. 416-343-0011. www.thejackmillershow. com. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's hard to review a show in good conscience when two out of five regular cast members aren't there. The show's chemistry and balance are bound to be off, no? But The Jack Miller Show , a charming behind-the-scenes look at a 1950s TV variety show, bills itself as an ongoing improvised comedy. If something happens, the remaining artists are supposed to roll with the punches, and punchlines.
The three regulars who did show up at last Wednesday's weekly performance were joined by five guests, and, oddly, the guests mostly outshone the regulars.
Pat Kelly , late of Second City, dominated the show with his James Dean-like actor with a secret. His tortured heartthrob surprised with sudden outbursts, scoring in every scene, especially with band leader Skip Whitiker, played with hilarious naíveté by regular (and one of T.O.'s most consistent watchable improvisers) Peter Oldring .
As the title character, Rod Crawford has little to do - there's not much subtext there besides a drinking problem. (It didn't help that his character's wife, Rebecca Northan , wasn't around.)
The show is brilliantly structured, and the signposts of this bygone era - Communist writers, the celluloid closet - are funny because we comprehend what the characters don't.
Just how improvised everything is remains unclear, though. Guests the Rumoli Brothers and Sunday Muse do damned fine jobs of recreating two retro TV ads that could not have been dreamed up on the spot.