Matt Oberg, David Calvitto & Jody Lambert in Goner(Photo © Max Ruby)
Matt Oberg, David Calvitto & Jody Lambert in Goner
(Photo © Max Ruby)
SCOTT SIEGEL: If the person sitting right next to you at the theater is your wife and you're watching a comedy, and she isn't laughing, you know what she thinks of the show long before it's over. The other night, we saw Goner, a show by Brian Parks at the Kraine Theater that has arrived with some good advance word. From the start, I found it deliciously sophomoric in its rapid-fire mix of Marx Brothers mayhem, South Park-style subversiveness, and early-Woody-Allen-type of comic observation. The show is not as consistently satisfying as its antecedents, but the jokes come in such profusion and a majority of them hit often enough that I was laughing throughout. This nutty social/political satire takes us inside a hospital where a U.S. President, shot in the head, is waiting for medical care. The hospital appears to be run by a direct descendant of Groucho's Dr. Quackenbush -- and therein lies the fun.

BARBARA SIEGEL: If the person sitting next to you is your husband and he's constantly laughing at a series of sophomoric, low brow, obvious jokes, you start to wonder if you really know this person. I know he likes The Three Stooges, but I always assumed that was a carryover from childhood. Goner is not without its funny lines, but you have to suffer through so many duds that you become exhausted waiting for the good ones. The actors work so hard in a forced, artificial, rat-a-tat style that they distance you from the material almost immediately. The show is basically a live action cartoon with silly names and sillier situations. It's s-o-o-o-o not funny!

SCOTT: It isn't that the satire is so devastatingly sharp, but the playful use of language in the show is very entertaining. There's a smartass quality to the writing that works precisely because it is smart. Even the dumb-dumb lines are often springboards to some very clever writing, and the use of non-sequiturs works very well, largely because the talented cast members toss them off so convincingly.

BARBARA: It's hard to tell if someone is a good actor when what they're doing is so obviously fake. Nonetheless, I did like Bill Coelius, the actor who plays the President. He has a lot of presence and great deadpan delivery.

SCOTT: I liked him, too, but I also thought David Calvitto was a scream; his performance as the head of the hospital, Dr. Warren Wyandotte, is a memorable piece of comic acting. I liked most of the cast, in fact, because they threw themselves into this madcap material with such obvious relish.

BARBARA: Most of the time, Scott and I agree on shows. If there is a difference of opinion it's usually just a matter of degree. Rarely are we diametrically opposed. I'll forgive him this time, but next time, he's a goner.

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Matthew Rauch inThe Revenger's Tragedy(Photo © Samantha Moranville)
Matthew Rauch in
The Revenger's Tragedy
(Photo © Samantha Moranville)
A Great Play is the Best Revenge

In our last column, we complained about a couple of shows that had their runs extended, wondering what all the fuss was about. Since then, we've caught up with another extended show, The Revenger's Tragedy -- and we couldn't be more pleased that more people will get a chance to see it. This thrilling production by the increasingly impressive Red Bull Theater Company is awash in creative passion. Jesse Berger's direction is inspired, as are the costume design by Clint Ramos and the lighting design by Peter West.

With 18 actors in the cast, you know that nobody's making any money; but they are, indeed, making art. In this show, there are circles upon circles of characters intent upon revenge. The main player is Matthew Rauch as Vindice, who gets the play (and the revenge) started. He is a sly, charming, mesmerizing actor. Others worthy of accolades include the wonderfully odious Duke of Venice, played by Christopher Oden, and the vampish wife of the Duke, played by Claire Lautier.

The play is gory, violent, and in your face, but it's also stylish and smart. The production is a terrific marriage of craft and content, a reminder of what Off-Broadway theater can and should be.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]