Theatre Review: Shadowbox’s Out of Control is Quite Tame
Shadowbox Live’s newest production Out of Control bills itself as “a dangerous cocktail of sketch comedy and rock n’ roll.” This seems true, but Out of Control is a Shirley Temple that gets its danger from doubling the Grenadine. It is like a crazy sugar high, but couldn’t be more tame.
Compared to past endeavors, the comedy really lacks in this show even though it uses the same writers. The majority of the sketches rely on old, stereotypical cliches and gags. For example, as a group of clueless cubicle workers endure a female-led anger management session, one male, upon noticing the feminist leader’s irritation, reasons that she must be “wo-menstrating.” The joke is that women have no control over their lives and that hormones completely rule them. That is funny, if it were 1957.
I will not ruin multiple jokes for this show, but the age of many of them made me half expect a “What’s the difference between a black person and a white person…” gag. That only slightly appears in the sketch “Child Idol” in which a group of young girls fight for the title of America’s next child star. It all feels quite predictable, and thus, not funny. The exception comes with “Bachelor Parents,” where twenty years after meeting on The Bachelor, a couple (Tom Cardinal and Stacie Boord) tells their teen (Anita McFarren) how they met. This sketch is redeemed by its surprise ending.
Perhaps an additional problem with the comedy stems from the costumes and props. In a sketch twenty years after The Bachelor aired, the characters look as though they sit in an American family room circa 1976. A lot of the costumes seem very 70s, especially the men’s, though the dialogue strives for modern jokes. It all feels very confusing.
Now, some good things happen in this show. Noelle Grandison’s rendition of “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” features excellent vocals and a wild, almost Strange Days dance with JT Walker III, Nick Wilson, Andy Ankrom, Megan Louia, and Edelyn Parker. It explores an out-of-control aspect in an interesting light. “Sign O the Times,” sung by Stacie Boord features some of the best video projections I’ve seen Shadowbox and David Whitehouse create in a long time. The video underscores the song and again emphasizes the rampant chaos within the world. Also, no offense to David Whitehouse, but the Shadowbox ensemble found a fun way to reinvigorate the standard opening announcements with this show that proves quite entertaining.
All in all, Out of Control feels more like a group of people reflecting on youth in the 70s-80s, singing songs from that period and talking about the demise of a culture. The songs do feature more variety than that, but Prince, The Police, Van Halen, and Molly Hatchet help with that feel, and sketches like “The Phone” and “Gym-nauseum” certainly prove this point. Overall, the show seems like a re-hash of many moments Shadowbox and others have tackled before.
Go home, Out of Control. You’re tired, and it’s past your bedtime.
Photo via Shadowbox Live’s Facebook page.
Out of Control runs until May 31, at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front Street. Fri. & Sat. 7:30 & 10:30 pm. Tickets $20-$40. More information can be found online at www.shadowboxlive.org.