Tales of Error: It Came From Junior High

Local Arts Reviews


Tales of Error: It Came From Junior High

Movements Gallery,

through October 31

Running Time: 3 hrs

Remember Saturday Night Live's "Holiday Greetings from Tarzan, Tonto, and Frankenstein" sketch? Imagine that one-minute gag stretched out over an entire evening and you have some sense of Flame Failure Productions' latest offering. This Halloween-themed sketch comedy show clocks in at an unforgivable three hours, approximately an hour and a half after it runs out of material. There is no evidence that any editing was done. Sketches, old the first time, are reworked endlessly throughout the performance. Among the most painful is a recurrent "open mike night," in which Halloween figures of yore, from Dracula to a werewolf/Elvis impersonator take turns going up to the mike for their own "I just flew in from Transylvania and boy are my arms tired" routine. Yes, the Mummy eventually has to "wrap it up"; yes, Dracula thinks you look delicious; yes, everything is just "killer." Any more questions?

In its advertising, Flame Failure promises a Blair Witch Project takeoff, but in lieu of milking this new and fertile spoofing ground, the gang's only allusion to the film is a witch named Blair. This is indicative of the writers' steadfast refusal to take chances, and the result is a barrage of juvenile and well-worn gags. Instead of coming up with anything innovative, the writers play it safe with tired impersonations of, to name a few, Frankenstein, Jason Voorhees, Judy Tenuta, Sinead O'Connor, the Godfather, and even, pleasedeargodmakeitend, Johnny Carson.

To be fair, a 13-year-old boy would think this was the best theatrical event in the history of mankind. The word "bitch" is used with dazzling frequency. Masturbation jokes are pervasive. "Uranus" is definitely the writers' favorite planet. Not only is that sixth-grade pun trotted out more than once, but throughout the performance there abounds an almost endearingly adolescent love/hate relationship with all things homosexual. Guys kiss, wear dresses, call each other "faggot." Wally Cleaver and Eddie Haskell conduct experiments with Vaseline. Guys with more sublimated desires bond by going to the cemetery together in search of "witch titty."

What saves this show from the depths of sketch comedy hell is the presence of several truly gifted cast members. Most notably, the 17-year-old wunderkind Renato Del Vento is mesmerizing and single-handedly makes the show worth paying to see. Astoundingly versatile, at times repulsively vulgar, and sweating star presence from every pore, Del Vento in his every moment on stage makes the show exponentially more sophisticated, nuanced, and outrageous. Cary Scwartz, who expertly plays several brands of spastic, and Brad Pauly, who portrays Dracula with a come-hither smirk, are also very entertaining. The other cast members for the most part hold their own, and Shalimar Arnold (bouncy Dating Game contestant; sexy witch) injects some charming femininity into what would otherwise be a strictly guys-in-their-basement deal.

Of the several skits that do not fall painfully flat, there are a few truly funny gems. The most successful casts Del Vento and Cary Scwartz as fast-talking Hollywood schmooze artists pitching scripts to Alfred Hitchcock, e.g., a remake of The Birds with just one bird: Big Bird, or a remake of Vertigo about freaking out on a plane. Though a Halloween theme pervades the whole show, the true mystery of the evening is why the writers opted for endless and outdated middle school antics when they had such talent at their disposal.

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