'Go Comedy!': Laughter up and went

July 18, 1996|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Plays with an exclamation point in the title have to work really hard to earn that punctuation mark.

"Go Comedy!" simply hasn't got enough comic savvy to live up to its title. As a spoof of the celebrity-roast syndrome, it's as lame as the tacky Vegas-type events it's sending up.

Although Bowman Ensemble artistic director Matthew Ramsay, who wrote and directed "Go Comedy!," has some ambitious and well-received productions to his credit, his latest show is no laughing matter.

A basic problem with this play is that the audience may find itself wondering what point there is parodying something that is already so close to self-parody.

The overbearing stand-up comedians and airheaded talk-show hosts populating the lower echelons of the entertainment-world food chain are certainly ripe satirical targets, but "Go Comedy!" hasn't enough wit or insight to make the evening any better than its pathetic stand-up routines.

Last year's Bowman Ensemble production of Ramsay's "The Zalmar Boys" generated enough narrative and musical momentum to enliven its standard-issue history of a rock band. If Ramsay's interest in pop culture makes that musical biography and now "Go Comedy!" seem like natural projects for him, he's unable to transcend the generic material in his current show.

Things start promisingly enough as the hosts of the evening, Mel (Jason Yaffe) and Cheryle Gongtata (Janel Bosies), trade inane patter about the lifetime achievement award that will be presented to a comedy veteran named Gerty Herald (Lois B. DeVeas).

Backed by an onstage trio, the pathetic duo launches into the production's title song. This song promises to show us their goofy outlook on life. Instead, the song becomes seemingly endless as Mel and Cheryle's vocalizing alternates with snippets of stand-up comedy by some of the evening's guests.

The cavalcade of comedians includes Erika St. Perry (Cathy Wilson), a TV sitcom star who can't speak a sentence without saying "ya know" and "hey;" Ibn Obannon (Michael Butscher), who does both jokes and R&B numbers; and Sally Centers (Judy DeDeyn), a singer who is a legend if only in her own mind.

Also, Miriam Falcon (Winn Tucker), a performance artist with more attitude than talent; Jeremy Wong (Reggie Meneses), a self-described "cool" Asian comedian who's relentless in mining East-meets-West stereotypes; a rude newcomer named Dean Face (John Hamer); a gruff guy with old army jokes, Papa-John Bodice (Bob Nelson); and Jack Tony (Mark Redfield), a hard-drinking comedian whose insult humor has been reduced to just the insults.

What they have in common is that nobody is funny. The canned laugh-track accompanying some of their routines is the only laughter.

Most of the performances are adequate, though Redfield brings such gravity to his role that he seems to belong in a better play.

Most of the play is given over to a mixture of song, comedy bits and guests chatting with the hosts as they await the arrival of Gerty.

Unlike Godot, Gerty does show up. Too bad it's impossible to get excited about her appearance. Because the play mistakes hectic stage business for narrative tension, there's no particular eagerness on our part to see what old Gerty is like, live and in person.

And in the flesh she's as much of a comic stiff as the rest of them.

'Go Comedy!'

Where: Fine Arts and Performance Center, Catonsville Community College, 800 S. Rolling Road

When: 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, Saturday, Wednesday, and July 25-27; 3 p.m. on Sunday

Tickets: $12 at the door, $10 in advance, $7 for seniors and students

Call: (410) 455-4508

Pub Date: 7/18/96

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