SBD: Silent But Deadly, at the Second City, Donny’s Skybox Studio. At this point, solo performer Brad Steuernagel hasn’t done enough homework to achieve his goals as a physical comedian. During one of the lulls in his latest one-man show, SBD: Silent but Deadly, he gushes on and on about Rowan Atkinson’s influence on his work but also admits that he hasn’t spent much time watching Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, or any of the other silent-film greats.
This lack of perspective is appallingly evident in Steuernagel’s performance, which never comes close to the masters’ multidimensionality. And his best bits–as when an affable nerd mistakes a telephone’s cord for its receiver–seem ripped directly from Atkinson’s Mr. Bean fake book, grotesque facial tics and all. Steuernagel’s mime and use of the space are undeniably crisp, but he needs to explore his characters more deeply and create a unique identity for himself. His longest bit lasts only a few minutes, and he never creates the stakes that would push his characters to the appropriate ridiculous heights.
The show’s title is also a misnomer: Steuernagel is so busy cluttering his work with jokey voice-overs and white noise that silence is actually at a premium. Cut the sound system and he’d have the makings of a show, but without that leap of faith, SBD comes across as nothing more than a hodgepodge of good intentions.