Yard Sale the Play and Grand Ole Orgy

One play rooted in ritual, the other in comedic sexuality

The most appealing aspect of the urban yard sale (other than getting free of one's unwanted hoard in exchange for petty cash) is the event's inevitable slide into street theater. While some customers sidle up for a quiet look at the selection of size 12 shoes or paperback books published 10 years ago, there is always a contingent that seems to walk in, mid-scene, from a drama for which only they have the script. And they tend to stick around for a while.

It's this territory to which Yard Sale stakes its claim, filling the BLB stage with all manner of crap, a couple of lawn chairs, and performers Kevin Pearson and Janelle Ranek. This is a comedy that pays homage to the parade of oddities we attract when we open up to all comers (and the weirdness we generate under our own steam), pitched about right at just over an hour, with enough spiky passages to keep the audience from growing complacent.

Following a bit of initial bickering over Janelle's pricing system (the duo's characters bear the performers' real names), we quickly establish the contours of our protagonists: He is good natured and a bit thick, she is sharp, caustic, and slightly nuts (one hint: She's selling her stash of antidepressants and booze to the neighborhood, at presumably discount prices).

How much you want for the cow? Janelle Ranek and Kevin Pearson (center)
How much you want for the cow? Janelle Ranek and Kevin Pearson (center)

Details

Grand Ole Orgy
monthly
at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
612.825.8949

Yard Sale the Play
through July 31
at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
612.825.8949

But we shouldn't get too attached, because what follows involves one or the other leaving the stage under some transparent narrative pretense, only to return after a minimal costume change playing a fresh customer. Thus Pearson becomes a growling Desert Storm vet and an obsessive ex-boyfriend, and Ranek transforms into a hippie breeder toting an animal placenta, and a bawdy old lady seemingly open to all manner of random sex.

This stuff works because Pearson and Ranek have obvious onstage chemistry, buying into each of their characters completely and creating the sort of assured and deceptively loose atmosphere that arises from both scripted yuks and improvised confidence (Matthew Vaky directs). These two are so clearly comfortable with one another, and free of the need to pursue laughs, that they allow the humor of the piece to develop in a gradual, satisfying fashion.

Which is to say, this Yard Sale feels like a condensed, highly entertaining version of the all-day slog of setting up your stuff and waiting to see what happens. While Ranek's crazy cat lady might not show up, some version of her surely will. Just hope the real thing is half as funny.

 Taking in the first monthly Grand Ole Orgy at the BLB felt like showing up for a party on time and realizing that the hosts were mistakenly expecting guests the next night instead. This mix of burlesque, standup comedy, and live music delivered a sense of what its organizers had in mind, if not its fullest execution.

But what the hell. Storyteller and banjo picker Courtney McClean led the Dirty Curls in a satisfying series of hillbilly-tinged sex-joke tunes (including the time bomb "Suck a Ring," and a timely number about the recession inspiring cost-free, libidinous fun), and the evening started with hilarious short films that will hopefully become a regular feature (including washboard player Coco photographing her friends in their underwear, and bass botherer Bunny imitating a lawnmower as he's dragged along the grass in drunken disgrace).

This Orgy is distinctly theatrical, just about one squawking trombone short of the all-out burlesque it both sends up and embraces. McClean might do well to employ some of her storytelling chops as the show evolves in coming months, but for now she's doing fine singing about topics such as her laziness precluding a range of sexual positions. One must be aware of one's strengths and weaknesses, after all.

 
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