BWW Reviews: Shadowbox Live's TABOO is Universally Entertaining
Shadowbox Live continues its reputation for having no topic off-limits, with its new sketch comedy and rock n' roll show entitled, "Taboo". The witty sketches poke fun at virtually everyone and everything, to the point that the show is "equal opportunity" offensive, and surprisingly enough, none of its jabs cut too deeply. It was odd to see Shadowbox stay relatively mainstream, particularly in a show about forbidden topics, and the energy of show suffered a bit due to this, as well as the opening act (on some nights) of fledgling comic, Justin Golak, who, while producing an occasional chuckle, appeared to have forgotten his role with stale and disconnected material.
That being said, Shadowbox Live 's writing team turned out some nicely done pieces. The best of the evening included an uproariously funny bit called, "Face to Facebook" in which Jimmy Mak's character sits by astonished as his friends and family highjack a benign post he has made, and begin attacking each other. He gets caught in the crossfire in comedic internet brilliance. Another favorite was "Coming Out and Going Home", in which Robbie Nance plays a son who comes home from college to find that his parents (Stacie Boord and Jimmy Mak) accept his sexual orientation much more readily than his admission to his camo-clad dad that he "really doesn't like hunting", with quite funny results. "Waiting for Paradise" finds seven people of diverse religions all at the door of the Pearly Gates, trying to explain how each of them got that far, while "Sensitive Susan" depicts an employee (Nikki Fagin) who must share what she has learned with her colleagues upon returning from diversity training. All of original material is amusing and entertaining, without truly being offensive to anyone.
The music for the evening was also varied enough to be intriguing, and the house band, "Bill Who?", is as stellar as ever- with Chris Lambert, Matthew Hahn, and Dante Wehe on guitar, Andy Akrom on bass, Matt Buchwalter and BranDon Smith on drums, Jennifer Hahn on vocals and keyboards, along with Noelle Grandison and Stev Guyer, and JT Walker III, Grandison, and Billy DePetro on percussion. This band is easily one of the best in the area in their own right, and often under-recognized.
Stephanie Shull delivered a captivating version of forbidden love with The Police's "Don't Stand So Close", while Stacie Boord's "Face Down In The Dirt" by Red Jumpsuits was polished and silky smooth, while unusually restrained for such a powerhouse performer. Big props to Nikki Fagin for her bold and raw rendition of mental illness with "I'm so Sick" by Flyleaf- so visually captivating that I couldn't take my eyes off the stage. The edginess of "Head Like A Hole" by Nine Inch Nails, sung by Edelyn Parker, was also perfectly suited, especially when paired with submissive/dominate and good vs. evil choreography themes masterfully created by Katy Psenicka and executed breathtakingly well by Psenicka, Fagin, Walker, and Akrom. There weren't many big dance numbers, but this one brought the electric energy that was missing in other parts of the show. The closing song of the evening, Joe Cocker's "Let's Go Get Stoned" was impressively sung by JT Walker III, who completely rocked out the final bars in true Shadowbox fashion.
Shadowbox Live does taboo topics well and often, and maybe I've been desensitized a bit as that' part of what I come to Shadowbox for- they not only embrace eccentricity, they make it marvelously entertaining and undeniably cool. This production had a definite feel of being more "hushed" than is typical of the exceptionally strong ensemble of Shadowbox Live. "Taboo" is great entertainment, but ironically quite tame by Shadowbox's own standards. However, my incredibly hip, though AARP card carrying mom enjoyed the show as much as I did, as did the undeniably overindulging college boys in front of me, as well as the professional young couple out on a date night to my left. With that, Shadowbox's "Taboo" has transcended all boundaries in a universally entertaining production.