by Paul Burt
At the Hunger Artist Theatre in Santa Ana we walk into a black-box and see only a white couch center stage. Look closer and we may catch a black stool in the corner against a black wall. On this evening for the Couch Potato Comedy Festival this is all that is needed by this talented pool of actors.
The evening is broken down into seven short scripts. We start with an “opening” put together by director Laura Viramontes. Russ Marchand sets the tone for the evening with comical takes on television and pop culture. From there most of the scripts do run off clichés and shock value humor, but the evening is still full of laughs thanks to the likes of Russ Marchand, Mark Palkoner, Angela Lopez, and Jessica Beane. Not to say the rest of the cast doesn’t fill their role.
One of the better works from the evening was “Dead Duck In Thirty Minutes or Less.” This script starts off being a little confusing, but it is reminiscent of short works by Christopher Durang, such as “Naomi in the Living Room” or “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls.” It is not as clean as a work by Durang, but author Jason Lindner definitely shows promise in the art of bringing truth to the absurd. Angela Lopez as the delusional religious actress, Mrs. Fingle, definitely drives this scene that is full of laughs.
“All in the Demographics” by Jay Rehak also shows some promise in its attack on our American political election process, making pokes at the polls and what slaves our elected officials are to image. Russ Moreland as the candidate needing a wife plays it up with imitations of presidents past, and Mark Palkoner as the spin-doctor really controls the scene from the get-go.
Jessica Beane plays the distraught short-term memory woman with a feverish intensity in the deranged love triangle created in “Jack, Wanda, and Ben” by Mike Mariano. Here Wanda (Beane) has remarried after her husband has been gone for a whole 45 minutes. The ensuing dialogue, albeit nothing new, is still worthy of its stage time.
Last but not least Hunger Artists stages its tribute to the couch. “Couchophilia,” again by Mike Mariano, is the perfect closer to the piece, as the center stage white couch is undressed, stripped, and unzipped for some Good Lovin’ from Tony, played with an unparalleled freedom by Russ Marchand.
The evening is best described as short and sweet. It is full of strong performances and a pace that doesn’t let up. For those who are concerned, the adult language and sexual content may be an issue. The evening is also full of cliché gags that in a group of less funny actors probably wouldn’t play off, but at The Hunger Artists on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night it does. So get off of your couch and make a trip to watch their three-seat wide, white Ikea couch in action.