By Richard Ades
Catching the annual Best of Shadowbox Live show gave me the chance to cogitate on just what makes a skit (or a movie or a TV show) worth seeing more than once. My conclusion was that it’s pretty much the same kind of thing that makes it worth seeing in the first place.
If a skit bases its appeal on a single twist, chances are it won’t be as much fun when you’ve already seen it and know what’s coming. But it’s also likely that you didn’t get more than a few chuckles out of it the first time around.
I’m thinking, for example, of Coming Out and Going Home, in which college student Benjy (Jimmy Mak) visits his parents (Robbie Nance and Stacie Boord) with a secret he’s dying to get off his chest. The secret, as you might guess from the title, is that he’s gay. The revelation gets an unexpected response.
But the real twist comes after Benjy unloads a second secret that he considers less momentous and is met with the kind of response he expected from his first revelation. OK, it’s a clever idea, but that’s all it is: a single clever idea. The rest of the skit simply tries to build on that idea, and it does it in a rather formulaic way.
The skits that remain the most fun over multiple viewings are those that are entertaining for multiple reasons.
Take Horror for Kids, the latest installment of Sneak a Peek, in which two TV hosts preview films that supposedly are coming to the multiplex. It boasts the usual back-and-forth between the insipid John (David Whitehouse) and the long-suffering Shelly (Julie Klein), which is always fun. Beyond that, it also has a trio of clever scenes from horror films based on children’s TV shows. The funniest reimagines Dora the Explorer (Boord) as a murderer but retains those educational moments during which audience members are prompted to shout out answers to her questions. Example: Which of these implements is best for bashing in someone’s head?
Other welcome repeats include Slumber Party—Bloody Good Time, in which a trio of girls accidentally summon the spirit of a long-dead murderer; and Good Driver Discount, in which an insurance company tries to make a TV commercial but keeps running headlong into insulting stereotypes. Besides their clever concepts, both benefit from funny dialogue and characters. In the first, Stephanie Shull is especially amusing as an elderly woman who over-indulges in face makeup. In the second, an out-of-her-element Bloody Mary (Edelyn Parker) begins aping the “OMG”-spouting girls who brought her back to life.
The best of the repeated skits is the last, Face to Facebook, which pokes fun at all-too-common denizens of social media: the conspiracy theorist, the champion of political correctness, the mom who posts photo after photo of her newborn, and on and on. It’s sure to make you click “like” unless you’re a total “tard brain.”
Besides repeating the best of the previous year’s skits, The Best of Shadowbox Live also repeats the best musical numbers. It’s less of a mystery what makes these worth hearing again: catchy cover tunes augmented by great vocals and instrumentals. My favorite resurrections (and their lead vocalists) include Face Down (Boord), I Put a Spell on You (Shull), Father Figure (JT Walker III) and Led Zeppelin’s exotic Kashmir (Klein).
The Best of Shadowbox Live continues through Sept. 6 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday (no shows July 4, 12, 19, 25-26 or Aug. 1). Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $20-$40. 614-416-7625 or shadowboxlive.org.