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THEATER BEAT

'Funnest': A Manic Neo-Vaudeville Show

July 29, 1994|SCOTT COLLINS

A sexually ambivalent teen-age girl, a mime who drives his roommate crazy and a Jaggeresque rocker--these are just a few of the characters played by John Topping in his "The Funnest Show Ever Created," presented by Artists Confronting AIDS at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.

The bearded and jovial Topping looks as if he is having the time of his life writing and starring in this manic, gay-themed "neo-vaudeville" show. But his irreverence and enthusiasm might be more contagious if the writing were a little sharper.

Directed by Harvey Perr, the 10 skits too often begin with a decent comic premise but never really go anywhere. In one sketch Topping plays a man who talks and walks in slow-motion. A comedy team like Bob and Ray would have had a field day with that one. But Topping stops at treating the tic as funny in itself, rather than as a means to clever wordplay or some unexpected twist.

Other bits are more derivative or even a little nasty. A skit about a girl who denies her own attraction to other women comes off as a transparent excuse for Topping to wear a gag costume that snidely caricatures the female body. And do we really need any more jokes at the expense of mimes, the world's easiest target?

* "The Funnest Show Ever Created," Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 p.m. $10. (213) 969-2445. Ends Aug. 27. Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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