Playwrights: Various. At: Annoyance Thaetre, 4830 N. Broadway . Phone: 773-561-4665 . Runs through: Sept. 28
Not to be confused with the 1970s Nair commercial featuring leggy models frolicking in hot pants, Annoyance Theatre's Short Shorts is courageous, sloppy, sometimes unfunny and sometimes as energetically refreshing as a slap upside the head. With three one-acts, Short Shorts showcases divergent degrees of improv, writing and character development.
In all, it is a rollicking hot mess lumped around flashes of comedic brilliance. ( Speaking of the latter: Listen for the absolutely priceless line about irony overcompensating into honesty. It's absolutely fireproof. ) Further, Short Shorts has a cast so committed, you find yourself rooting for them even when the material gets head-scratchingly stoopid. Even when the material crashes and burns, there's an infectious zest to the proceedings. It's difficult not to get swept up in the full-speed-ahead-even-if-it-means-plowing-into-a-brick-wall recklessness exuberance of the thing.
First up is Hipsters, directed by Rich Sohn and featuring Tim Baltz and Josh Walker as two hipper-than-thou poseurs whose pals-before-gals vows are torn asunder by a comely young hobby store employee ( Hanna Sanders ) . The script collaboration by the cast clunks at times, but the physical shtick is rarely less than inspired. Baltz is an amalgam of affected mannerisms in a pair of orange-tinted Foster Grants. With two words ( 'Excuse me' ) he can reduce the audience to a group of giggling idiots. As his slightly grosser, louder counterpart, Walker makes a fine foil. The two play off each other like blue-footed boobies in mid-mating dance—spastic, absurd and laugh-out-loud funny.
Next up is Deprived, a weird-out musical about a sleep deprivation study. Directed by the unfailingly inspiring ( even it's to roll your eyes in, um, annoyance ) Mike Canale, Deprived follows an increasingly crazed trio of misfits as they try to survive as lab rats. Jason Grimm's music manages to create the sensibility of a bizarre dream while cleverly mimicking all the tired tropes of musical theaterdom. A duet about dreams is a shopstopping mash-up of lullaby land-of-Nod fantasy and war-torn Latvia. And a number involving a dancing baby ( Who will maybe grow up to be a famous tap dancer—like Savion Glover of Jon Benet Ramsey! ) is a trippy goof. Read more story below....
The weakest of the three skits is Jacoby's Promise, wherein the ultra-conservative Jacoby family hosts a slumber party on the eve of young Kendall Jacoby's Purity Ball. ( And if you haven't heard of those creepy marriage/chastity/my-heart-belongs-to-daddy ceremonies, be thankful. ) With the exception of an opening rap number about Jesus, Promise falls flat and fails to unify around a coherent target. Directed by Brian Wilson and written by the six-person cast, Promise has a terrific premise— but as it disintegrates into mind-numbing scatological humor and pointless, predictable lewdness, it fails to live up to the promise of that premise.