Early in the revival of "Klub" at the Actors’ Gang, a peroxide-blond actress with a balloon chest is told by her director that her nose looks crooked. She nonchalantly pulls a power drill from her tool kit, aims it at her face and performs her own rhinoplasty. After the messy operation, she turns to the audience with a gigantic smile as if to say, "Is that better?"
By turns gross and outlandish, without a subtle bone in its grotesque body, "Klub" (pronounced "kloob") is a demented satire about the acting profession that interbreeds "A Chorus Line," Jean-Paul Sartre and Little Orphan Annie into a gruesome comic monstrosity.
The play's penchant for tasteless overstatement is sure to repulse certain audience members. "Klub" is a farce that thrives on anarchy and carnivalesque excess. The lack of narrative discipline (and good stage manners) may seem callow at times, but it's a valid and even rigorous approach for a play that explores the existential absurdity of the stage actor's craft.
Written by Mitch Watson and first performed in 1992, "Klub" takes place in a big-top Hades where a louche clown (performed by the playwright) rules with a pistol and a cynical grimace. Every night, a group of bickering actors must compete for the right to leave Klub, each performing his act onstage for an unseen director who arbitrarily awards points.
The vampish cast overacts overacting. The buxom blond actress (Evie Peck) coos and preens for the director, oblivious to her own silliness. Some of her more memorable competitors include a middle-aged actress in an Annie costume (Beth Tapper); a rude female mime (Emilia Herman); and an actor who sells his vomit as celebrity perfume (Brian Allman).
The aggressive lunacy of the Actors' Gang can feel like a shtick sometimes, but "Klub," which is directed by Michael Schlitt, represents a near-ideal pairing of style and substance. The unhinged weirdness that has become the company's trademark aesthetic provides an appropriate palette for the play's psychiatric-ward depiction of theater life -- a world where every evening repeats itself for eternity and the line between thespian and nut job is dangerously porous.
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Where: The Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Saturdays
Ends: May 10
Contact: (310) 838-4264
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes