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Paul Zaloom's Triple-Bill Play: Funny, 'Sick but True' Slices

STAGE REVIEW

April 09, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Have you ever baked a cake with beef plasma?" Don't be so sure. As Paul Zaloom points out in his one-man "Sick but True" at Highways, a second look at things we take for granted--like a simple commercial cake mix--can reveal startling surprises.

Then again, Zaloom specializes in digging beneath the obvious in his distinctively wacky brand of social satire. Many who are familiar with Zaloom as the star of the offbeat children's science series "Beakman's World" may not be aware that Zaloom is also a gifted puppeteer and performance artist.

In his Highways show, which has been directed by Donny Osman and co-directed by Jed Weissberg, Zaloom gets back to his roots. However, although uncensored, Zaloom's humanistic comedy retains a childlike appeal. A Paganini of found objects, Zaloom is incredibly inventive in his use of props--if that isn't too fancy a word to describe the junk employed in his hilarious low-tech effects.

The three pieces here have been previously performed. The final offering, "Yikes," an amusing riff on social institutions, is not as intellectually pointed as "My Civilization--The Prequel," Zaloom's wildly digressive opening piece, which utilizes a simple overhead projector to chart natural history, from the big bang through the environmental excesses of technological civilization.

In the second segment, "Phood," Zaloom plays a lecturer at a commercial food show. The telling slides, taken from actual food company brochures, offer chilling proof of what lengths certain food companies will go to to shave a few cents off the bottom line. It's funny and grim at the same time, a looking-glass peek into life's absurdities by a cogent social commentator.

BE THERE

"Sick but True," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Today-Sunday, 8:30 p.m. $15-$20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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