Beyond the Fringe of a Good Evening, J. Jeffers Productions, at Theatre Building Chicago. When Beyond the Fringe, starring Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Alan Bennett, opened in London in May 1961, its sharp, savage wit amazed audiences and critics alike. But listening to recordings of the West End and Broadway productions today, one wonders what all the fuss was about. Sure, these guys could be very funny, but much of what made them daring 42 years ago–like the hint in one scene that some actors may be homosexuals–is hardly worth noting today. And almost all the political jokes need footnoting.

Now imagine this aging material–plus additions from Cook and Moore’s 1973 comedy revue Good Evening–being performed not by comedians of the caliber of Moore and Cook but by four young, unseasoned Chicagoans. Further imagine that each belabored, laughless sketch ends with a long, momentum-destroying blackout. Then, as icing on this cake of mediocrity, imagine that each bit is introduced–in a way utterly foreign to the unpretentious spirit of Beyond the Fringe–by a scantily clad woman with a saucy tongue. You’ll get an inkling of what you’re in for if you catch this revival.

Only one of the four comedy wannabes, Robert John Keating, seems to know the difference between acting silly and being funny–a fact director Jan Y. Dial seems to have noticed, judging by how many sketches she’s put him in.