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THEATER REVIEW : Wacky Style of Video Clips Upstages TV : Scott Cervine and Craig Thomas provide a wide range of comedy in this irreverent multimedia production.


As with most of life's better things, the more you try to describe Scott Cervine and Craig Thomas' "XTV," at the Burbank Little Theatre, the more banal it sounds. The concept, for instance, of the "forgotten" Alan doll coming back to get revenge on Ken and Barbie isn't nearly as funny as watching it happen.

It's so funny--and Cervine as the show's video-maker sniffs out funny things like a wiseacre bloodhound--that we're served up a sequel: Alan coming back for the final kill. "XTV" intends, among other things, to skewer television, but it's constantly showing us that if TV were in different creative hands, it might be worth coming home to.

The show's logo title--"Experimental Theater and Video"--isn't a good enough pun on the MTV logo, but it's about the only point where the evening's humor never takes off. Besides, it's not easy putting a title on something that includes: dance pieces spoofing kick boxing and salsa, keyboard-guitar solos, magic numbers, comedy skits, live video and strange things done with squirrel costumes.

The closest TV cousin to what Cervine and Thomas are doing is Culture Clash's weekly variety show, but "XTV" is much more wigged-out than anything the Fox network would allow on the air. The pieces shouldn't fit together at all, and yet, with Leslie Pennick directing, they somehow do, galvanized by the energetic intelligence Thomas and especially Cervine bring to pure silliness.

Cervine's breadth of comedy is fearsomely great. If this guy isn't spinning off a brilliantly mad monologue on the crisis of turning 30 (again, sounds banal until you hear it), he's making flaming napkins disappear. On stage, he assures us that despite his frisky nature and nearly white hair, he isn't Steve Martin's illegitimate son. Actually, he looks more like Dana Carvey's long-lost brother, especially in one of the very funny video clips. The Carvey resemblance might hold Cervine back, but he has such a strongly developed personal comedic sense--and in multimedia yet--that he's bound to be an irresistible force.

His best video pieces, such as a mad "Action News" segment, the Alan-Ken-Barbie mini-movie or the microscopic crime-fighting "Scotty Man," make you forget that you're in the absurd position of sitting in a theater . . . and watching television. It's low-budget video, but it's spry, never flat, always surprising--in other words, very theatrical.

Thomas' contribution is more problematic. In several skits with Cervine and supporting actors Rob Harrison and Janie Gavin, he shows off a dry, deadpan wit that nicely plays off Cervine's puckishness, and he's poisonously good as host of "America's Funniest Home Tragedies." But while his music solos try to vary the show's pace, they're a mishmash of influences from Alan Holdsworth, Keith Emerson and Jan Hammer to Axl Rose and lower-level thrash metal. They rock, but except for a piece about his and Cervine's boyhood, they don't really fit here.

Susan Carlson and Carol Guidry's dancing duo called L.A. eX-Ballet fits so well it's inspired: They're actually more of a team than Cervine and Thomas ever are--bouncing, bopping, twirling, swooping and dipping around each other with sometimes military precision (and sometimes not). They come out of left field, but they belong here, since this whole show is fairly much out of left field anyway.

At its best, it's over the fence.

Where and When What: "XTV." Location: Burbank Little Theatre in George Izay Park, 1100 Clark Ave., Burbank. Hours: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Through Aug. 28. Price: $8 to $12. Call: (818) 954-9858.

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