In praise of Lobsters who kill

May 30

This job I’ve given myself – to write about the people and companies creating the lively and wonderful Bay Area theater scene – is incredibly fun. I’ve been doing it for various publications for almost 20 years, and now that various publications have laid me off, I just do it myself because I want to and because I there are a whole lot of things going on around here that should be written about and shared.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting in on the first run-through of Killing My Lobster’s latest sketch show, KML Hits Highway 101. That experience turned into the article you can find here.

Lobsters Andy

Last night I saw the finished product on opening night at Zeum. Because I was given entrée into the creation process, I think it would be unfair to turn around and review the show, so I’ve decided a standard review is inappropriate.

But I will tell you what I liked about the show (and there’s a whole lot to like about the show).

First of all, director Todd Brotze and his team of 12 writers have latched on to a good idea: the Schacter family, after their Danville home is foreclosed, hits the road in an RV (now their de facto home) to discover the glory of California. What follows are two acts, two hours and a mostly wonderful assortment of sketches, short films and recurring radio spots featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood extolling the virtues of the Golden State (mostly Schwarzenegger expresses revulsion that Christian Bale is the new Terminator).

Even before the show started I had one of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time. A slide show displays various graphs of intersecting and non-intersecting circles of interest. For example, the circles of “comfort and dignity” and “airplane travel” found no intersection. My favorite one involved three circles: “Name dropped in rap songs,” “Hollywood landmarks” and “Equal parts crunchy and soft.” The intersecting area was revealed to be either “Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles” or “Jenna Jameson’s vagina.”

The hot on-stage quartet (tucked in against the redwoods in Patricia Gillespie’s appropriately cartoonish set), led by music director Mike Smith on guitar, launched into Phantom Planet’s “California” then immediately began riffing and rocking into the first sketch and the first musical number featuring the singing-dancing Schacters: dad Chet (Calum Grant), mom Shirley (Emily Morrison), teen daughter Ericka (Christine Bullen) and 10-year-old son Wiley (Andy Alabran).

Lobsters Leslie

Throw in a rogue California AAA agent (Leslie Waggoner) and a needy CHP officer (Nick A. Olivero) and you’ve got just enough tension and weirdness to fill two enjoyable hours.

Favorite sketches of the evening: Grant, Olivero, Morrison and Waggoner reciting a list of the abundant California festivals (including the dirtiest festivals you could possibly imagine); Grant and Waggoner tussling over a fender bender, he in SoCal lingo, she in NorCal lingo (turns out the language of love is In-n-Out; Alabran and Morrison as redwood trees in a long-term relationship; Olivero and Morrsion in a car ballet (with Grant and Alabran supplying “beautiful” background dancing); and a Southern California luncheon with wired-shut jaws, Botoxed eyes and lips and an artificially inflated buttocks.

Comedy, as the Lobsters tell us, means different things to different people, and that’s one of the great things about sketch comedy. You get wonderful performers putting on and taking offer personas at warp speed. Comic tone and approaches shifts from scene to scene, and somewhere along the way, you’re going to find your brand of funny.

That said, I have to say two members of this energetic cast (all of whom have great moments) made me laugh every single time they were on stage. Alabran (top photo) and Waggoner (lower photo) are just flat out hilarious. They’re tightly wound, slightly manic and pitch perfect. Their timing is impeccable, and they can make the smallest things turn from chuckle- to guffaw-inducing. They’re my kind of funny.

Waggoner has a great moment toward the end of the show, when as a tour guide, she tosses off, “The San Andreas Fault was a gift to America from France.” It’s a minor line but gets a huge laugh because she’s just funny. And Alabran’s funniest bit is also his most manic as he plays a murderer trying to flee down 101 but is mired in traffic. “Fucking 101!” he keeps saying.

KML Hits Highway 101 is a staycation worth taking, a quick trip to the land of funny.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Killing My Lobster’s KML Hits Highway 101 runs May 28-June 14 at Zeum Theater, Fourth and Howard streets, San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$20. “Recession night” pay-what-you-wish performances May 31 and June 4. Visit www.killingmylobster.com for information.

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