Remember High School Musical? Cool, cool, here’s what would happen if someone fused the squickiest parts of it onto a satire of Chicago theater. In the Cornservatory’s Storefront Theater Musical, originally produced in 2009, three different storefront companies all hold space at the imaginary Upstage Theater. There’s an improv troupe, a drag company, and the woo-woo Really Realistic Realism Theater. Big personalities abound, all of them self-absorbed, all of them toothless parodies of the folks who comprise the city’s storefront theater scene. This community is certainly fertile ground for lampooning, but the characters are written and performed with zero tenderness or sincerity. Sexual harassment is a punchline. The queer characters serve as jesters. Sometimes you can catch the lyrics. The end result is juvenile bullying.
Full disclosure: I reclaimed my time and left at intermission. I couldn’t do it. Between the dick jokes, a truly tone-deaf number about the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, and careless sound production, this revival is a bad-faith disaster.
And, it’s infuriating. Knowing the sacrifices that theater artists make to produce their work, I found this a half-assed, brotastic spin on artmaking that lacked the intelligence and self-awareness to land. You don’t get to make fun of the hardest working folks in town without putting in the hard work yourself. v