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Chaos on cue 

We'd love to offer a rundown of everything you'll see in Discount Comedy Outlet's "Catastrophe on Disaster Island," but we'd do better capturing lightning in a bottle. To this highly attuned, inventive troupe, funny business is a never-ending process -- a living entity that mutates like livestock grazing too close to Chernobyl.

As glimpsed in a rehearsal, DCO stalwarts Brian Bradley, Anitra Pritchard, Peter Hurtgen Jr. and Audrey Kearns (joined by guest star Todd Schuck) are perpetually pushing each other's barbs closer to the bull's eye. Punch lines are punched up, bits are lent added bite and comebacks are thrown out at blinding speed. One could easily imagine the creative tinkering going on until the curtain rises, so joyful is the commitment to collaboration.

So what if the details remain sketchy? It's sketch comedy, after all. At least it used to be: "Catastrophe" is the group's first experiment with long-form lunacy, weaving hit-and-run skits into an extended narrative that unfolds in reverse order. Introduced to a handful of castaways who've turned a deserted island into a fascist regime, we follow their misadventures back to the beginning, learning how a simpleton (Schuck) became the cape-wearing dupe of an axe-wielding despot (Bradley).

In between the story's three segments may lay such jewels as "Long Island Girls," in which a pair of New Yawk gal pals (Pritchard and Kearns) await an appearance by the Virgin Mary. Pritchard in particular displays a gift for dialect, timing and physical humor as the lapsing Catholics chain-smoke their way through fervent appeals to the Immaculate One to "pray for us sinnahs." The actress is then off on another scheduled tangent, essaying a motivational monologue whose chipper bromides degenerate into playground taunts. This is range at its finest.

Not all of the solo forays are as side-splitting. Kearns has readied a speech that pokes fun at her status as Bradley's girlfriend, but the gag is too insular to be much fun for anyone outside the company.

Such misfires are easy to forgive; DCO's impeccable delivery overcomes their weaker concepts, and the rapidity with which they refine their output prevents them from remaining married to a misguided notion. The procurement of a new home base should intensify the process. After runs at Theatre Downtown, the Civic Theatres of Central Florida, Performance Space Orlando and the Central Florida Theatre Alliance, the quartet has settled into Zoë & Company, planning a seasonal schedule that will have them mounting four new festivals of silliness a year.

In the ever-shifting world of Discount Comedy Outlet, that much at least is certain.


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