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Theater Review : Gal-Vanized Crazies, Foolish Choices

July 02, 1994|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — In Shakespeare's "Othello," the women--well, Desdemona--don't make out very well.

In the Orange County Crazies' new Saturday night show, "Orangethello," the women seem to be exacting some revenge. If this group--which is, after all, led by a woman (Cherie Kerr)--has been struggling for its own brand of gender equity, then the struggle is more or less over.

Actually, while one of the best trends here is how gal Crazies are getting equal time and laughs with the guys, the worst is how the running-theme gimmick (this time a po-mo (postmodern), O.C.-style version of "Othello") is so unfunny and unwatchable.

Indeed, kill off the "Orangethello" bit, and you cut possibly 20 minutes off what already is a long show at 2 hours and 40 minutes. (And it would still need trimming.)

So strong are many of the written skits that the running-theme bit is a nuisance. And pointless: Any connection this bit would like to make between Othello's murder of Desdemona and the O.J. Simpson case is quite lost.

Another skit, written by Eric Halasz and Kerr, is a much cleverer take on the case, as Meri Jansons' Nicole Brown Simpson is being pestered by MCI as O.J. Simpson is breaking down the door. Later, Jansons plays anchor Terribly Murky in an amusing media-frenzy spoof of "Hard Copy."

The main staple of this group is ribbing affluent Orange Countians. In a skit devised by Patsy Fung, Janette Jensen, Toni Ala and Kerr, a harried commuter (Jensen) does her makeup and stuffs breakfast down her throat while combatting the freeways. It's the simplest idea with a perfect payoff, made vividly large by Jensen.

While the potentially explosive Fung is woefully underused (her only real bit being a patronized Japanese exchange student), Patty DeBaun and Ala are Crazies who live up to the name--especially in a skit about a woman trying to resist a doughnut, and another about a Nazi-like condo-owners' association.

*

Don't totally forget the guys: The only veteran left from the old Crazies days is Halasz, but it's Phil Fleischmann who commandeers some of the night's best comedy.

Fleischmann, who looks like Stan Laurel on drugs, appears first as an insanely robotic stand-up comic named Phil; later (and most memorably) as the world's most hapless supermarket checkout clerk; then as a chap named Fred who must improvise a rapid-fire speech on an audience-provided topic (Saturday's topic was, ahem, keys).

Fleischmann even tries to single-handedly save the "Orangethello" mess when it's beyond saving.

While those audience suggestions Saturday were often nicely injected into upcoming skits (a Crazies specialty), far too much time was spent by Kerr and guest host Steve Ostrin getting them from the crowd. Considering the show's length, it's a good thing there isn't the usual second music-video spoof--although the one that is here, "When a Man Loves a Beamer" (set to "When a Man Loves a Woman") hilariously skewers men's love of luxury cars.

Gals, you may be in the driver's seat.

* "Orangethello," Orange County Crazies Theatre, 115 E. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Aug. 27. $12. (714) 550-9900. An Orange County Crazies production. Directed by Cherie Kerr. With Matthew Aaron, Toni Ala, Patty DeBaun, Phil Fleischmann, Patsy Fung, Carrie Gifford, Ricki Guerra, Eric Halasz, Meri Jansons, Janette Jensen, Greg Rankin and Bill Vetro. Music by Tom Zink. Lights and sound: Mary Van Hoyt. Video: Kerr, Gary Mocnik and Spectrum Video.

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