The HERE Arts Center is a fun venue. It's a lounge, a gallery, and it has several performance spaces. Having performed there myself a few months ago, I have the foreknowledge to avoid the overpriced drinks but to enjoy the chocolate chip brownies. Currently, every Friday night at 10:30, one of HERE's performance spaces features Sting Operation--a new comedy by Richard Bubbico and Jason O'Leary, members of the sketch comedy group Ralph. Having checked out Ralph's hit show The Grapes of Ralph last year, I looked forward to seeing what new work their members had to offer.
Sting Operation follows the misadventures of wannabe rock 'n' rollers Rich and Jason, who apparently lack the higher brain functions necessary for paying for their phone bill--but Jason always remembers exactly what to put on his grocery list. The two main characters' goal in life is to achieve rock stardom (the show benefits from the presence of a talented three-piece rock band and from the fact that Bubbico has been studying and playing guitar for over a decade). Through some random act of playwriting, Rich and Jason begin to receive phone calls from Sting. Seeing how the rock star and former Policeman is on a sabbatical in Tibet, the two decide to impersonate him. Rich can only do a pirate accent, so Jason is the one who adopts a goofy, grade-school English dialect, and the pair start to dupe all of Sting's entourage.
Can you base a whole play on the premise that two stoners are impersonating Sting? Rich and Jason give it a good shot. But while much of Ralph's humor was irreverent and clever, Sting Operation tries to induce giggles through predictable gags and excessive utterings of "dude." My theater companions Julia and Mark indulged in some of the aforementioned, expensive alcoholic beverages--on empty stomachs!--and they laughed a lot more than l'il, sober old me, so draw your own conclusion if you'd like.
Though it's entertaining to see Rich and Jason cross-dress and play multiple roles in Sting Operation, their work with Ralph was much stronger. While the pair's staging and sense of improvisation are well polished, it's hard to overcome the show's weak premise. Self-deprecating jibes about silly scene transitions and campy, original rock tunes like "Yoga Mat" and "Rock and Roll Music (Will Save the Day)" are amusing, but I can guarantee that you'll have a better time at Sting Operation if you down a few cheap beers before heading over to HERE.