Talent Show 1989 and Catastrophe Theory

Though the shows Talent Show 1989 and Catastrophe Theory aren't related, the Getalong Gang's spoof of junior high talents and Stephen Pruitt's account of his career path both offer much in the way of entertainment

<i>Talent Show 1989</i>
Talent Show 1989

Talent Show 1989 and Catastrophe Theory

play! Theatre, through June 4

Running time: 2 hrs, 15 min

Usually when you see a double bill, the productions are somehow related, sharing a theme or a writer or even a production company, but that's not the case with these two offerings. In one, a group of adults spoofs junior high talent shows, and in the other, a single performer struts and frets his hour upon the stage.

Talent Show 1989 is produced by the Getalong Gang, one of Austin's newest theatre companies. Penned by Michael Federico, a Gang co-artistic director who also takes on the role of drama nerd Dallas, the show is an extended piece of sketch comedy. Adam S. Vine Junior High Principal Rick Pearson and PTA President Linda Jean Devereaux introduce the acts, which consist of a white rap artist; a frightened singer who can't be heard; a dancer who performs while Pearson and Devereaux have vocal, energetic sex offstage; a group of actors that present an incestuous playlet; a magician without a needed assistant; a metal band doing a song inspired by Maya Angelou and Homer's Odyssey; and not one, but two routines by the school's drill team, the Rooettes. Director/choreographer Zenobia Taylor, who also expertly handles the role of dweebish dancer Stephanie, gets her cast to buy into the broad, extremely energetic style wholesale. Every performance in the show has something to recommend it, particularly Kathryn West's gin-sipping Devereaux and Spencer Driggers' too-cool-for-school rapper Danny. When you can produce laughter doing little more than setting up instruments, you're doing something very right. For summer entertainment, no one could ask for more.

The second half of the bill, Catastrophe Theory, is produced by Stephen Pruitt, a local lighting designer who wrote and performs the piece. Pruitt makes it clear throughout that he was and always has been a nerd, and indeed, with his close-cropped, almost shaved head, stippling of beard, slightly pudgy torso, and wrinkled clothes, he resembles the stereotype. Throughout, he paces back and forth, a bundle of nervous energy seeking an outlet. He talks about his experiences growing up and trying to find himself, first as an astronaut (he bounces around the stage at the beginning of the show in a spacesuit), then as a scientist, then as a photographer, and finally as a theatre artist. The last is the most interesting incarnation because Pruitt does nothing slick or seemingly prepared; he appears to be just a guy who's chosen to get on a stage and talk. At one point during the performance, he said that he'd forgotten his place. But did he? There's more going on here than meets the eye or the ear, and the stories Pruitt tells culminate in a life lesson as valuable as any that can be learned.

While each show runs about an hour, there's an extended break between the two. They also play at different times on different dates, so you'd do well to call ahead if you want to see only one. But don't limit yourself. Both have much to offer, seeing as one exists to make you laugh and the other to make you feel good about yourself and the road you travel.

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Talent Show 1989, Catastrophe Theory, Getalong Gang, Michael Federico, Zenobia Taylor, Kathryn West, Spencer Driggers, Stephen Pruitt

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