Idea Theatre Company

at Boombala

The Idea Theatre Company wants to change its act. After three and a half years touring Illinois schools, using theater and comedy to tackle serious issues, they’d like to stay in one place for a while and do comedy revues for adults.

Tales of Unconscious Living is an admirable attempt to use the skills that the company polished in academia to jolt some of us slobs on the outside into thinking. They just haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.

Part of the problem is content. Clearly, there’s supposed to be a theme to Tales of Unconscious Living, whose title suggests an exploration of how some of us stagger through life in a stupor. But the characters up onstage were nobody I had ever seen before, except on a new comedians special.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe most people are out-of-work actors who spend days teaching cretins at book-burning schools, nights as bad lounge singers, weekends doing acrobatics in the suburbs. Maybe most people do have bizarre suburban families, talk in movies, and go to group therapy. If you’re like that you’re in luck. This show is for and about people like you. But the rest of us schmucks have little to relate to.

Some of the pieces do show traces of what made the company so successful in the school systems. Under One Roof, for example, is a fairly entertaining sketch about modern families. The trouble is Idea does little more than state a problem that we grown-ups don’t need to be introduced to.

It begins promisingly, with a Twilight Zone-ish narrator discussing the people we are about to meet. They’re a normal little family, really. With one difference. This family uses scripts. Then we meet them–and sure enough!

You guessed what the complication’s going to be: Dad doesn’t want to use scripts anymore. He’s sick of them. So they put down the scripts–and what do you know! They have nothing to say to each other. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Some of the skits don’t even have a point, other than allowing the actors the opportunity to dress up funny. Welcome Wagon, for example, merely allows two men (Bill Kelly and Paul Quinn Denney) to dress up as women and make fun of suburban housewives.

There are some enjoyable moments. Denney and Jean Mahoney work well as a duo, and they really shine in the closing act, The Fabulous Delfuccios. They play a horrible acrobatic team that is performing in a used-car lot. Mahoney is dressed in some sort of red-white-and-blue glittery thing and Denney looks like the perfect circus reject in a ruffled shirt and high black boots. They perform feats of magic and derring-do that will astound the senses. At least if you’re buying a car. OK, maybe it’s a little juvenile, but I loved it.

Overall, the actors in Tales of Unconscious Living are a good group gone wrong. They are likable and energetic performers. But if they want to make people more aware, as they claim, they need to get beyond funny clothes and voices.