Losers Bracket: Four Monkeys Hump’n a Football, WNEP Theater. This troupe’s fascination with the flawed and foolish everyman continues in Clay and Nate Sander’s first full-length script, an elegantly conceived slice of life about fishing, drinking, ranting, and cussing in the Middle American wasteland. The last Sander brothers collaboration–Leopold!, a rapid-fire sketch show staged at WNEP in 2001–took a pretty high-minded look at some pretty dull folks. With this script they’ve settled into a comfortably middlebrow approach that echoes the warts-and-all logic of the Coen and Farrelly clans: ugliness is beautiful, and intelligence is not necessarily a virtue.
Director Jen Ellison has sharp instincts when it comes to this type of loose and sprawling stuff: her staging gives the script a clear rhythm. But what’s best about this show is its use of the human heart as an anchor. Dave Goss and Mike Powers wear their pathetic hearts on their sleeve as a pair of hapless, down-on-their-luck barflies. Patrick Brennan is equal parts Andy Taylor and Barney Fife as the sheriff, Terry. Even Don Hall, who shoots from the hip as inveterate asshole Hitch (an extension of his persona in Angry White Guy Reads the Paper), is all heart beneath his gruff exterior and Ditka ‘stache. The general theme of Losers Bracket is equally pure: despite all the screwball backstabbing and infighting, the biggest laughs come from simply basking in the mind-numbing predictability of human nature.