Buddhist goes up to a hotdog stand, says “Make me one with everything.” Y’know, comedy is a funny thing. That’s why I’ve made a separate list of the five best comedies of 2010, distinct from the five best dramas. My Dueling Critic colleague, Kelly Kleiman, made no such list, which says a lot about her sense of humor. She doesn’t understand the difference between funny-haha and funny-peculiar. If you do, consider the following:
1. “The Absolute Best Friggin’ Time of Your Life,” The Second City etc. Well, the “junior” division of the Great Octopus of Improvisational Comedy—aka The Second City—knocked it over the wall with this deafeningly-loud, lightening-fast revue which actually managed to be topical and political as well as funny. Of course, problem with topical humor is it changes so quickly. Then again, with politics the more things change, the more they stay the same. Oh well, I guess Second City won’t have Daley to kick around anymore.
2. “Tobacco Road,” American Blues Theater. This was the comeback show for the original ensemble troupe that split from American Theater Company, and it was a doozy. American Blues extracted all the juicy, hypocritical fun out of this earthy, tawdry look at a hard-scrabble poor 1930s Appalachian family. American Blues made it delish to feel superior to Jeeter and Ada Lester and clan, the folks who live on the dark side of Walton’s Mountain.
3. “Speed the Plow,” American Theater Company. OK, gotta’ give the devil his due, with or without the American Blues contingent. As one half of its Mamet Repertory, American Theater Company unleashed pitch-perfect actors Darrell W. Cox and Lance Baker as the well-dressed but foul-mouthed Hollywood whores of this vicious satire on motion picture deal-making. Often simply too, too darkly comic to laugh.
4. “K.”, The Hypocrites. Greg Allen—former artistic director of the Neo-Futurists—has been refining his adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” for some years, and he’s turned it into a brilliant Absurdist comedy; you know, an arbitrary world in which there are no reasons or answers. Would Kafka approve? Who knows, who cares? He died before finishing this one. Allen’s directed his own wonderful script with an abundance of meta-theatrical devices, all of which work for a change, especially the brilliant scenic design of 15 doors.
5. “Travels with My Aunt,” Writers’ Theatre. This is (it’s running well into March) one of the best shows of the year as well as one of the best comedies. Simply put, theater doesn’t get better than this. Grahame Green’s richly comic novel—sort-of Auntie Mame only her nephew is 55 before she gets hold of him—is wittily adapted for four adept actors all of whom dazzle and charm in multiple roles. The clever scenic design and the turn-on-dime staging make this a huge show in the most intimate of venues..
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