MURDER ON THE COMEDY EXPRESS and CHILDREN OF THE ABSURD, Second City Training Center, Donny’s Skybox Studio. Here’s my theory. I think Murder on the Comedy Express originally featured a framing device a la Agatha Christie, with Hans Holsen and Robyn Norris playing a pair of detectives whose investigation winds through and unifies this ten-skit revue. The concept fell through, but the programs and press materials had already been printed so Holsen and Norris reduced the framing device to a lame little opening speech, followed by maybe 45 minutes’ worth of unrelated skits, then allotted the excess time to another troupe, Children of the Absurd. The theory may be off, but it’s the best explanation I have for the flimsy, patched-up feel of this late-night show (not to mention the inaccuracies of the press release).

Murder on the Comedy Express isn’t a crime, but it’s not much of an experience either. Holsen and Norris come up with a bunch of odd conceits–usually involving small behaviors taken to an extreme–then play them out without developing them. A waiter annoys his colleague by giving her little shoves, a Valley-girl type shows bad manners on an airplane, a duo sings educational songs about the Maginot Line–wherever these and the other skits start is also where they end. By comparison, the Children of the Absurd show positively roils with transformation, less a revue than a series of fruitful five-minute therapy sessions.