Audacity Theatre Lab: Dishing It Up & Out

If attending live theatre is like sitting down to a prix-fixed meal of the imagination, then Audacity Theatre Lab’s Hello Human Female is gourmet grilled potluck, peppered plumb full enough of implausible characters and wacky situations to sate the humor-seeking palate. It’s kind of like watching Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman, except these folks mean to be funny and are aware of their audience. Soap opera plot meets Lost in Space meets Young Frankenstein meets Lassie, Come Home and Wizard of Oz, with homage to the faked orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. Whew. In retrospect, the chaotic concatenation somehow channels Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with its over-riding theme of amor omnia vincit (LUV conquers all). In this case, LUV certainly does. Clean your plate and go back for seconds.

The secret to the hyperkinetic, no-holds-barred romp? Matt Lyle, the playwright, currently resides in Chicago, where he’s studying comedy writing at The Second City and screenwriting with Chicago Dramatists. Director of the play and artistic director of the company, Brad McEntire, mounted and produced over fifty plays here in Big D then toured successfully to New York and Austin Fringe Festivals, before sallying forth in 2006 on an artistic sojourn to Hong Kong and other exotic, inspirational locales. There’s a brazen confidence herein, born of endless dribbling of ink on paper and much time spent clamoring to earn and keep the attention of maddeningly fickle audiences. These boys got it down to a science.

On stage, in the kick-ass dual role of codependent overbearing Mother in drag and equally overbearing, smarmy Mad Scientist in gaiters is Jeremy Whiteker, with as much meritorious experience in performing in quirky, absurdist one-act originals as he has in straight ahead musical comedy. S/he is a hoot and a holler, a medium rare sight to behold and savor. Becca Shivers steams into her debut with Audacity Theatre Lab like a locomotive in overdrive in the gender-bending role of pre-teen boy “Timmy”, returns in Act II as the Mad Scientist’s humanoid sweetheart, a real honey-bee of a waspish creation. The star-crossed lovers, Jeff Swearingen as hump-backed humanoid Blork and Arianna Movassagh as perpetual virgin in search of true love or unreasonable facsimile, play off each other effortlessly with a fine balance of physical humor, crisp verbal repartee and droll song. Their duet version of “Somewhere Out There” ought to be filmed and posted on YouTube. Worth a reprise at play’s end, wish it had happened. Stirring in a classical whiff of Ionesco, Beckett and Shakespeare to the madcap hilarity, venerable regional actor Scott Milligan plays Homeless Harry (shades of Everyman) and Timmy’s aw-shucks Gramps. He lends a sober grounding to the enterprise, in a bizarre but comforting way. Narrating the production and guiding the audience in docile compliance to its seats with dulcet-toned instruction of what to do in case of ‘inevitable fire” is professional voice over artist and ex-pat Brit Emily Gray. She adds a zesty dollop of whipped cream ephemera to the absurdist reality sur la table. Jolly bon appetit.

Audacity Theatre Lab’s Hello Human Female runs Wednesdays through Saturdays through March 7 at the Ochre House intimate space, 825 Exposition Avenue. Street parking is ample, close to the venue and well lit. House staff is super-friendly. Reservations and tickets: 469-236-2726 http://www.audacitytheatrelab.com

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