A naked septuagenarian stuffs a boiled egg into his left armpit. A woman wearing plastic butterfly wings reads a dour poem, then torches a five-dollar bill. Three drunk guys shave off one another's body hair.
This is Space 55 Theatre's Seven Minutes in Heaven, a collection of unvetted short skits, blackouts, and interminable improvisations, and the kind of show that signals the end of the theater season and the beginning of a long summer of also-ran entertainment.
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I liked this show's conceit — a dozen quick bits of theater lasting seven minutes or less — better than its execution. What I saw reminded me of a lot of the performance art I saw downtown in the '80s, without the angst or most of the fun. The opening bit, by a maddeningly untalented improv duo called Die Puppet Die, involved a pair of Muppet knock-offs blathering about pineapple pizza and repeating the mantra "God's ass is tropical!" An amusing performance by local musician-of-sorts Tom Tuerff about songs that should never be played on a Japanese autoharp was nearly trumped by its follow-up, in which an annoyingly smug fellow read a poem about the chupacabra and then sang a tunelessly offensive number called "I'm Not Retarded." (When will people stop making fun of the differently abled?)
Amazingly, this wasn't the most horrible seven minutes of the evening. That honor belonged to Will Hightower, who is either the world's worst stand-up comic or a very clever mimic of same. His closest competition came from the men with the electric razors and the old guy, who started out wearing a kilt and a plaid shirt and ended up ruining everyone's night by taking them both off.
Robrt L. Pela stage review
Seven Minutes in Heaven continues through June 26 at 636 E. Pierce St. Call 602-881-0280 or visit www.space55.org.
In between these appallingly lackluster routines were more lackluster routines and a couple of high points that saved the evening from utter ruin: A young woman sang a song she'd written about her father's death, and members of Scorpius dance troupe did an asses-only routine to a scratchy recording of "Hernando's Hideaway." All of this was emceed by actor Bob Fisher, whose affable manner was a delight and whose ad-libbed "Are those new shoes?" (asked of the naked man as he exited the stage) provided the evening's funniest moment.
There's a chance you will like Seven Minutes better than I did, either because you have lower expectations of live performance or because the lineup is subject to change from week to week. Perhaps you'll visit Heaven on a night when its lesser elements have been replaced with bigger amusements. If not, it's still better than an evening of murder mystery dinner theater. Sort of.