HOLD ME, Great Beast Theater, at Profiles Theatre. Jules Feiffer’s 1977 sketch comedy, like his earlier works The Explainers and Feiffer’s People, culls bits and pieces from his famous, now defunct weekly Village Voice cartoon. As such, the piece demands a cast able to leap into and out of Feiffer’s trademark edgy, neurotic, hilarious characters–most of whom are onstage only a minute or two–with the speed, grace, and comedic acumen of Second City veterans.
Anything less, and you end up with a show like Great Beast’s, which is charming and likable but only intermittently funny. Part of the problem is that this production doesn’t honor Feiffer’s blackout format. Instead his short, crisp scenes are allowed to bleed together, with characters ambling from one sketch to another as if everyone in the comedy were part of some larger story–which Feiffer never gets around to telling, of course. Lost in the shuffle are the pithy, witty exit lines Feiffer uses to button his sketches (and strips).
Also missing are Feiffer’s nasty edge and the overcaffeinated urgency that powers all his characters. Instead everyone here displays a calmer, nicer, more midwestern brand of neurosis, which wins the audience over at first but grows wearisome when it becomes clear that this show will leave much of Feiffer’s best material about life, love, and the sickness of everyday life unmined. –Jack Helbig