Highlight: The Crabapple Winter Spectacle

Mark Ehling

Crabapple presents a show in which dialogue floats in the ether, and ideas and associations brush comfortably if strangely against one another. Subtitled "The Experts," for no reason that readily comes to mind, the evening begins with a monologue by writer Mark Ehling in which he renders a historical account of the production of "corporate musical theater" in the early '70s for consumption by businessmen "flush with Bacchus." What follows are unrelated alternating vignettes, the first featuring a pair of schmoes (Ryan Newton Harris and Gus Lynch) who get together at a table for the express purpose of having a bullshit session. In the second, an ailing man with a "sebaceous film" over his eyes (E.J. Subkoviak) laments and reminisces with a woman (Sarah Ross) who could be a friend, or a nurse, or his ex-wife. Ehling eschews almost all context, and his characters mouth considerably funny dialogue that gradually coheres into a skewed meditation on fakery, authenticity, and human ritual. This is anarchic subversion with a disarming grin, though director Bryan Bevell's cast manages a great deal of warmth and humor to enhance Ehling's consistently entertaining and wryly funny material. Lynch and Harris offer great low-key chemistry as two guys working their way through an idle day spent pondering rescue dogs, Hermann Goering, and the outer limits of kitsch in Nazi gift shops. Subkoviak and Ross enter into a more complex emotional terrain than existed in previous Crabapple shows, while handling Ehling's humorous passages with intelligence and understanding. Ross leaps feetfirst into a digression about old-time baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, while maintaining a thread with Subkoviak running from fake monkey mothers to lost car keys. Gratefully, none of this material is delivered with strain or an antic need for laughs; while the laughs come, Crabapple is developing a comedic style that somehow evokes a sense of stillness.

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