Sketchfest Review: Mahan/Leon/Vermeire @ Eureka (1/25/2012)

by OJ Patterson on February 25, 2012

Colin Mahan

SF Sketchfest has a brilliant ability to capture the Bay Area’s attention and imagination. Benefactors of this allotted spotlight are local artists, made bolder and louder by proper production value. In the case of Scott Vermeire, Harmon Leon and Colin Mahan, the added bells and whistles enhanced their rustic independence, demystifying each artist’s vision.

Heavy coal-bordered eyes, voluminous hair, and gaudy zebra attire; it was obvious that Backstage Paige, the night’s MC, came to party. Actually, she came to teach her unwitting students (audience) a community-college-level course on Hair Metal Ethics. Paige, an airy, stoic, Viper Room veteran, dictated the starter (or refresher) lesson on bodyshots and hair-whipping. Highly invocative of a balloon deflated in age still reaching for the stars, the hostess was terrific at riling up the crowd. The whoops and yells she inspired struck a smirking contrast with her tempered, Valley Girl demeanor.

In a night rife with technical difficulties, Scott Vermeire argued that one cannot be too prepared. “Hiding Places and Places to Hide”, a one-act lecture, brought astute recognition to every child’s primary invention: hide and seek (emphasis on the former). He approached the odd, childish concept meticulously and systematically, a corporate-friendly Where’s Waldo Seminar. The clean-cut master of a mysterious practice used barbs and quips to corral the audience while boasting a humble ego. All the while, “…Places to Hide” remained motivational if not superfluous.

Intellectual debates over the foundations and garnish of irony have raged on from twilight to twilight. Ironically “Ironic/Not Ironic”, a fanciful, crude, one-man construction from Harmon Leon, wasn’t a monolithic production aiming for ultimate definition. It was a tragedy: a personal, gnarled, expansive tale of heartbreak. Harmon “ZaZaZa” Leon, Tenderloinesque intellectual, dealt with said heartbreak with lighthearted irreverence and tangential, post-dial up, post-modern expression. “Ironic/Not Ironic” was a rapid fire blur as Abraham Lincoln gave way to Adolf Hitler who gave way to cats and chimpanzees. Each reference bounced and expanded like helium electrons, inconspicuous and erratic. Chaos, the glue to Leon’s shock and pomp, kept “Ironic/Not Ironic” surprisingly organized. Leon masterfully anticipated his targets’ assumptions and layered self-awareness with self-reverence while gushing introspective, fringe allure.

A golden man exploded from the stale darkness of intermission. His name: Colin Mahan. His mission: saving the world. His method: Crock (comedy + rock). Then, two voiceless band members, wielding cardboard instruments, sauntered on stage. Also, a boxy robot, complete with phallic slinky. Also a screen filled with blooming, Gilliamesque animations. Each flavor formed like Three-Course-Dinner Gum: weird, inspired and downright impossible.

Mahan must be commended for aggressive, skewed kitsch. Not only was “Too Many Wordz*: A Crock Opera In 1D” an uplifting tour de farce, its egregiously endearing ingenuity pulsed with tenacious enthusiasm. The piece featured flimsy fun, self-righteous indulgence, an expansively thick love of pop culture, and Roger Corman bravado. Musical parodies crashed with laser suds, waves from a face-in-palm ocean of haphazard puns and slippery wordplay. One-liner, free-association humor was purportedly “bad”, its hammy silliness present from the opening and infused throughout. Still, even with heartfelt delusion, the production’s talent and vision was crystal clear and undeniable. “Too Many Wordz” may be the most epic inside joke of all time.

OJ Patterson

OJ Patterson is a Bay Area Native, who grew up on a diet of scathing satire and absurd surrealism. He is a comedy writer, performer and promoter. He has the best laugh in the room and loves you very much. Serving Size = 1.

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