Review: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS at Shadowbox Live

Tight writing, crisp acting, powerhouse singing make new show must see viewing

By: Apr. 20, 2024
Review: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS at Shadowbox Live
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The video segment “Produce Parables” is one of the many highlights of Shadowbox Live’s tour de farce BEHIND CLOSE DOORS, which opened April 18 and will run Thursdays through Sundays until June 2 at the troupe’s stage (530 Front St. in downtown Columbus).

In less than two minutes, Zach Tarentelli and his video “Produce Parables” forever tainted memories of the overly cute, children’s show, Veggie Tales.

In “Produce Parables,” Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are forced to let go Peach and Eggplant for the way their emojis are being used on the internet. “What about Larry?” Peach complains. “He’s practically a f#%cking dildo!”

Tarentelli’s spot-on CGI parody is part of what makes BEHIND CLOSE DOORS work. In its nine sketches, head writer Jimmy Mak and his SCRAWL writing team of Brendan Barasch, Ash Davis, Robbie Nance, KJ Queener, Tarantelli, and David Whitehouse skewer the familiar (Covid Karens, a debate of which streaming services to keep, and reality show rejects trying to navigate real world dating) as well as taking a swing at some outlandish premises (a Shakespearean take on “Ladies Night,” the Greek origins of the asterisk and hashtag symbols, and apocalyptic survivors). The troupe laces the sketches in with four video “commercials” and “newsbreaks.” Stir into the mix an eclectic soundtrack featuring live takes on Velvet Revolver, The Killers, The B-52’s and others and the audience walks away with an unforgettable experience.

The Shadowbox motto is to do to sketch comedy what Second City does for improv. To do that, it uses a simple formula: crisp writing and solid acting produce big laughs.

In “Stream Wars,” Netflix (Whitehouse), HBO/Max (Tom Cardinal), HULU (Riley Mak), Apple TV (Beth Siegling), Disney Plus (Andy Ankrom), and PornHub (Michelle Daniels) make their cases on why a couple (Brandon Anderson and Katy Psenicka) should keep them. After Apple TV summarizes its case to remain in two words, “Ted Lasso!” Psenicka says wistfully, “My grandpa loved Ted Lasso … now both of them are gone.”

Keeping their video segments on point requires a lot of close cropped editing. For example, “Unknown Caller,” a tribute to unidentified telemarketers complete with Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” started out as a three page script but was whittled down to a half page by the time it was produced.

Also tightly written was “Pixar For Tweens,” a mock news segment about Pixar marketing videos for “Tweens.” Reporter: “You mean people between the ages of 10 to 12?” Pixar Spokesperson: “No, for people living with their parents who are tween jobs, tween houses, or tween marriages.” Among the proposed titles are “CARS … Insurance” (tow truck Mater must choose between auto liability and comprehensive collision insurance), and “Mommy’s Toys Story,” (no description is given or needed).

Even without the sketches or the videos, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS could have been an entertaining experience with just the band. Under the direction of Matthew Hahn, the house band of Justin Doe and Jack Walbridge (guitars), Buzz Crisafulli and Andy Ankrom (bass), Rick Soriano (keyboards), and Brandon Smith (drums) offer solid accompaniment to a host of vocalists. Riley Mak and Brenna Romer and rapper Emily O’Regan put their own stamp on “Bang, Bang” while Leah Haviland crushes Bishop Briggs’ “River.”

It is odd to see singer Robert Smith’s voice coming out of Anderson’s mouth in the band’s cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” Similarly, Whitehouse captures Fred Schneider’s sound and mannerisms on a show-closing, conga-line romp through the B-52’s “Love Shack.” One of the strongest, non-vocal performances of the night was Poe’s blistering guitar solo on Velvet Revolver’s “Slither.”
Be sure to catch this exciting, uproarious show, but be forewarned: viewing Veggie Tales or even trips to the produce aisle may never be the same afterward.

Photo credit: Jeffey Buzz Crisafulli

Review: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS at Shadowbox Live

Review: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS at Shadowbox Live


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