Lo Mein on the Totem Pole, Stir-Friday Night! at the Second City, Donny’s Skybox Studio. The latest scripted sketches by the Asian-American comedy troupe Stir-Friday Night! demonstrate that contemporary Asian culture has a lot more to offer than John Woo, Jackie Chan, and third-rate chop-socky flicks. But unfortunately the show’s revue structure apes Second City’s format, and the majority of the material offers little more than the umpteenth revisiting of already tired, frail scenarios.
The group manages to create a handful of engaging characters, including a pair of slobbering engineering geeks and a father who gleefully torments his underachieving son with hand puppets, but the performers race through their scenes, never allowing their creations to develop. Even the show’s opener–an otherwise deft parody of the blaxploitation genre (featuring an overwrought accountant named “Slant”)–is plagued by poor comic timing. Although the show is rife with potentially intriguing concepts, its bland, dated perspective provides no relevant commentary on current events or human relationships. The only lasting impression made by Lo Mein on the Totem Pole is of the group’s terribly unoriginal style of comedy. –Nick Green