Theater Review - Dad's Garage sketches a familiar Business model

Comedy troupe tries too hard to emulate a TV sketch as it lampoons the global economic slowdown

The funny folks at Dad’s Garage Theatre seem more likely to read the Onion than the Wall Street Journal, so the economic themes of The Dad’s Garage Going Out of Business Show push the company a bit outside its comfort zone. Curated by Matt Horgan and written by “the Dad’s Garage artistic family,” the evening of sketches takes inspiration from the current economic slump and builds gags around corporate layoffs, mortgage loans, unemployment applications and the state of the dollar. Horgan even wears a giant foam greenback to play “Dollar Bill” as a sickly kvetch with one foot in the grave.

Despite tearing the premise from today’s headlines, the company’s execution feels slightly old-fashioned. Some sketches rely on predictable targets and highly familiar ideas, including a George W. Bush impersonation, happy-talk newscasters, a riff on an old “Schoolhouse Rock” tune and a “We Are the World” parody called “We Are the Rich.” A video spoof of “Girls Gone Wild” gets plenty of laughs, though, and a piece with a financial consultant (Gina Rickicki) trying to help a spendthrift board game mascot (Horgan) only suffers from its similarity to another sketch from the playhouse’s Fingertips last summer.

Business’ writers and five performers throw plenty of effort into the work, but many of the jokes come across as too closely modeled on TV sketch comedy like “Saturday Night Live.” A bit that portrays auto industry executives as harrumphing, mustachioed stuffed-shirts seems informed more by Monty Python than any real-world exposure to the corporate world. Other short plays and sketch shows at the theater — the 8 1/2 x 11 festivals, visiting plays by the Neo-Futurists, company-generated work at the Top Shelf Theatre such as Date and Drove — always felt like theater, even when individual pieces didn’t click.

One of Business' briefest but cleverest bits, “Sacrifices,” embraces theatricality by showing young people making hilariously minor resolutions to cut back: “I will stop saying ‘whatever’ and start saying ‘whatevs.'” Simplicity benefits another of the evening’s highlights when a ballpark beer guy (Chris Blair) practically stalks a baseball fan (Jon Carr) to buy a cold beverage.

Some of Business' most amusing jokes actually aim the lowest and involve such raunchy content as sperm banks, laser vaginal rejuvenation, and differing interpretations of terms like "hand job." (They’re probably even more entertaining with a few beers in you.) Overall, The Dad’s Garage Going Out of Business Show emulates a trend found in workers who’ve kept their jobs during the recession: They’re more productive than ever, but you can tell they’re trying too hard.

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