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A CurtainUp Review

Suspicious Package
By Jenny Sandman

We'll celebrate the birth of Jesus the way Mary did-with martinis and hot wings. --Sir, Skill Set
There's nothing more poetic than limericks about haikus.--Michael Fitzgerald, On the Nature and Religion of the Hibernian Peoples, or, Marty McDonagh Goes to the Bank

Christopher Carley, Jody Lambert, Leslie Farrell, and David Calvitto
(left to right) Christopher Carley, Jody Lambert, Leslie Farrell, and David Calvitto (Photo: Brandon Thompson)
Brian Parks who previously wrote Americana Absurdum has now written five searingly witty short plays that together make up Suspicious Package. The last two pieces are a little over the top. But the evening as a whole has a Monty Python-esqe oddness that makes for a deliciously funny seventy minutes of theater.

In The Dinner Guest, a quiet, reflective, aristocratic older man relates the tale of a dinner party at which he was seated next to a wolverine. Surprising and multi-layered, this reflects a deep familiarity with British humor.

The Cocktail Party involves two catty, gossipy women. The chatter about fashion and B-list celebrities, but as the cocktail party progresses, we slowly realize that their husbands are Third Reich higher-ups and everyone at the party is a Nazi official.

Skill Set is perhaps the most closely akin to a Python sketch. It's just another day at the scalping firm where the salesmen count up their scalps and attach them to expense-account forms. It's a brilliant exercise in sarcasm and office wit ("How's the coffee?". . . "Burned. Tastes like an inner-city house fire that killed three.") and funny in much the same way that BBC's The Office is funny.

The last two pieces, while well-written, spin a little out of control. In Pieta, Mary is pissed off at Jesus because he's taking his sweet time resurrecting and she wants some kind of reward for all she's had to put up with through the years. "I encouraged this God thing way too much," she gripes. But Jesus is tired of his mother being on his case all the time. They argue and bicker, and while the commonality of their argument is the whole point of the sketch, it's more situational comedy than the carefully observed satire of the previous pieceses. The same is true of "On the Nature and Religion of the Hibernian Peoples, or, Marty McDonagh Goes to the Bank" whichtakes place in an Irish bar. A loose-lipped priest, two drunken parishioners and the local whore unearth the recent killing of a leprechaun. The humor lies mainly in the broad, overly exaggerated Irish accents.

Despite the lesser playlets, this funny evening should adorn Parks' career. The cast members are all excellent. h David Calvitto and Jody Lambert stand out with their precise comic timing and an inherent sense of the absurd. Director Paul Urcioli keeps the pacing razor-sharp. All told, this is theater that's droll, topical, and smart. And at $15 a ticket. . .affordable.

Written by Brian Parks
Directed by Paul Urcioli
With David Calvitto, Christopher Carley, Leslie Farrell, Jody Lambert, Jona Tuck and Rik Walter
Lighting Design by Eric Southern
Costume Design by Daphne Javitch
Running time: Seventy minutes with no intermission
HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue; 212-647-0202
11/10/04 through 12/04/04
Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm.
All tickets $15
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on November 12th performance
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