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Sweet and Sour

[whitespace] Bodega, Saturday Night
Wild bunch: The cast of Bodega, Saturday Night goes all out for laughs.

Bodega, Saturday Night' offers an uneven variety show

By Daedalus Howell

IF VARIETY is the spice of life, then Bodega Theatre Company's variety show, Bodega, Saturday Night, an evening of original sketch comedy and music modeled after television's Saturday Night Live, puts the nut in nutmeg and the pap in paprika.

Billed as "a comedy and music revue," Bodega, Saturday Night is an uneven, oddball melange of corporate-bashing comedy, adolescent shtick, and middlebrow humor penned by Jedd Crow and Steve Hastings and directed by Lee Rhoads. It's a light, ebullient diversion, which, in some ways, may herald the return of old-school vaudeville. The bits exist for their own sake, devoid of a unifying premise and packed into 90 minutes--with nearly 20 performances in all and many genuine laughs.

Apart from skits, the show features tap dancing, numerous musicians (some funny and some decidedly un-), and a man who can play John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever using his hands as an instrument. Or at least it looks that way--theatrical trickery may be, er, afoot. Indeed, this company is crafty. Watch for actors planted in the Casino's conjoining dining space swilling Olympia beer and exhaling sputum all over neighboring diners. What at first appears as just cause to reinstate prohibition is actually an elaborate setup for later stage-borne antics.

Seventeen-year-old singer Rachel Bockover opens the show with a folksy rant featuring the line "We really freaked her out, we had our titties out, uh-huh," and returns with a poignant ballad of love gone awry.

Writer-performer Crow's "Rent-A-Granny," a one-note premise that finds actress Susana Crofton interested in chartering matriarchal services from Vince Craft (who is also the show's de facto host), typifies much of the show.

Characters such as Swami Satchabanana and Madame Pin-Shin Yao (ethnic caricatures featured in Crow's sketch "The Overpopulation Conference") are a refreshing smack of political incorrectness--and timely since India recently matched China's 1 billion population mark.

Writer Hastings appears as an intentionally hapless stand-up act, performing a song about a dingo that he segues into with the old "what's a bush doctor--an Australian gynecologist?" gag. Hastings can be endearing, however, as when he repeatedly loses his guitar pick in his instrument's sound hole and frequently refers to crib notes taped to his guitar.

Singer-songwriter Ernie Noyes steals the show with both of his musical appearances: he describes his bad attitude in a song in which he sings that he's a "godless, pervert commie" who "smokes mari-ju-wanni," and he later closes out the night with a well-crafted transvestite cowboy ballad à la countrified Tom Lehrer.

The interactive portion of the bill comes with Craft's solo interpretation of The Wizard of Oz at breakneck speed, replete with costumes, props, and "a little dog too." Throughout, he encourages the audience to sing along with the musical bits.

Though often silly, discursive, and underdeveloped, Bodega, Saturday Night does achieve its share of belly laughs. The earnestness of the performers and the eerie notion that they're having more fun than the audience is sufficient cause to let down one's guard (and indeed, taste) and be merrily entertained.


Bodega, Saturday Night plays on Saturday, Aug. 28, at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Theatre in the Casino, 17050 Bodega Hwy. Tickets are $10. 876-1858.

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From the August 19-26, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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