Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fringe 2015 review: "Awkward Silence JAX Presents Straight UP"

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2015 at 8:01 PM

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This is the kind of review about a Fringe show that nobody wants to write, because every show is somebody's baby. Even the ugly ones. But somebody has to write the bad reviews. And since I was at the preview of "Awkward Silence JAX Presents: Straight Up," I guess that duty falls to me.

Let's cut to the chase: Weak sketch comedy is probably the weakest form of entertainment, and this show is pretty weak. When something is pure improv, you can laugh along with the blunders and awkward moments and crappy jokes and empathize with the performers who are trying to fumble their way through a completely unscripted experience. But sketch comedy has a script – at least a rough one – and the performers have (presumably) spent some time trying to refine their work. So when the sketches come off as amateurish, unoriginal and not very funny, audience members cringe at the performers rather than with them. Which is what I felt myself doing during most of this show. 

A sketch involving an inappropriately angry elementary school music teacher who threatens to slap a less-than-stellar student across the face with his father's penis comes off as creepy and tone-deaf rather than absurd and inappropriately funny (which is probably what the troupe was aiming for, I'm thinking). 

A faux infomercial about a black robot (named D-Jibo Unchained) is a complete ripoff of the SNL faux-commercial gimmick, and while the piece probably has some potential, it's just not original enough to fly – not only in concept but also in execution. D-Jibo and his angry responses to his white "owners" are so closely modeled on sketches done by Dave Chappelle that there's no flattery – just (bad) imitation.  

Other sketches include a musical piece about how the dating app Tinder turned two formerly straight women gay, a confusing bit about students going on a retreat on a shark-fishing boat and a long, singsongy jape about the frustrations of a family going to Disney for the day (which does have some amusing moments involving Disney's Magic Band). 

The show's lone highlight is a piece in which one of the actors plays a cat that completely ruins his owner's date with his girl by acting like a cat that doesn't give a shit ... if only it hadn't been done already in Buzzfeed's "Things cats do that would be creepy if you did them." 

I'm sure the people in Awkward Silence Jax, out of Jacksonville, put a lot of work into this show, and it's certainly way easier for a non-performer to sit behind a computer and criticize than it is to have the balls to get up onstage and perform for people. But what it comes down to (for me, at least) is that people have to make decisions about how to spend their Fringe dollar (and time). And unless you have nothing better to do and have an hour to kill, you can probably skip this one. 

Awkward Silence Jax Presents Straight UP
Awkward Silence JAX – Jacksonville
Venue: Bronze 
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 18 and up
Price: $10

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