New weekly comedy night starts off well at Chico Cabaret
The opening Sunday-evening performance of The Crippling Thoughts of Victor Bonesteel, Chico Cabaret’s new comedy night, was relaxed and informal. Without a program or a stage set, the actors (and writers) presented the collection of skits, parodies, commentaries and songs using nothing more than a few costume changes and a handful of props (fishing pole, birth control pills, armbands with swastikas—the essentials).
The show opened with a musical intro by Doug Anderson, from whom we learn the show will be “canceled” if an actor doesn’t show up to fill an empty spot. When actor and co-writer Brian Finnigan appears to save the show, we learn that the premise of Finnigan, Brian Miner and Tony Varicelli’s comic production is that it will take place at a struggling community theater. The next few scenes riff off this central concept, explaining at first how reality TV is replacing theater before admitting that “shitty theater is replacing theater.”
Some of the more amusing and varied skits were those of the assorted actors or extras in this faux theater who were allowed their “extras scenes.” In one of these skits, actors Jill Miller, Allison Rich and Sean Green mock and make fun of the show’s writers, one for being short and another for having a receding hair line.
The night included several parodies similar to those on Saturday Night Live, such as exaggerated product advertisements like “Swoons-be-Gone” to alleviate stigmata. There was a “pageant for the pious” and even a Sunday Night Live “Weekend Update,” in which one anchor stole welcoming punch lines from SNL comedians Colin Quinn and Norm McDonald. These particular skits weren’t necessarily as crafty or well written as other, simpler commentaries, but they were more audience friendly because there was just a lot more going on.
One of the funnier of them was a spelling bee, complete with a schoolgirl in headgear who spoke with a lisp and a bitter, atheistic teacher. When the word pneumoconiosis (or something of the sort) was asked to be used in a sentence, the teacher (Varicelli) answered with “a disease I picked up in Oroville.”
The show’s humor often revolved around politics and religion, not in a distasteful manner but with a sharp yet sarcastic appeal, as in the final skit, in which the audience is informed to “never underestimate the power of Mormons” as they save a poor soul from a life of street mime—likeable and funny in a random way.
An audience that can relate to or enjoy the strides and struggles of community theater will appreciate the inside jokes and references and the show’s ability to make fun of itself. Even if local theater isn’t normally on your radar, the physical humor and somewhat silly skits in The Crippling Thoughts of Victor Bonesteel will still be amusing.
Finnigan said that, as it continues, the show will change as they add and change skits. Beginning May 8, the show will play every Sunday for four weeks and, if successful, might become an ongoing weekly comedy night.