The Age of Cynicism, or Karaoke Night at the Hog

That’s one the fifty or so songs on the Karaoke Song List that Heather Lynn as the Karaoke Jockey, Mama Hog, hands out at the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of "The Age of Cynicism or, Karaoke Night at the Hog." Karaoke comes first in Keith Huff’s new play. The singing by responsive, though nervous audience members and a couple of plants alternates with almost sketch style scenes of "The Age of Cynicism…"

Frankly, I don’t usually care much for interactive theatre. I prefer to sit in the comfort of my audience invisibility, but I do love a sing-along and in the production directed by John Kinzer, Heather Lynn was such a personable host as the Karakoke Jockey, Mama Hog, that I happily waved my usual reservations Cynicism."

The first scene introduces a very comical, wildly mismatched unmarried couple, Ellen, Danielle Bruce, and Gary, Nate Walden. We meet Ellen and Gary in a Chinese restaurant in a very funny scene that each describes as the blind date from hell. Gary is trying to handle chop sticks with two hands; she thinks he’s pathetically inept. Ellen is eating with her fingers; he thinks she’s aggressively gross. It’s quite a dual.

A blackout followed and then we were back at the Hog with Mama Hog and her Karaoke list. A nervous audience member acquitted herself well on "Proud Mary" and the audience proudly sang with her on those "rollin’" response choruses.

Our first couple, Ellen and Gary are paired with the more settled married pair of Gary’s work mate Debbie, who set up the date with Ellen, Lorie Garraghty, and her husband Don, Derek Reckley. The play scenes continue with Gary and Debbie at the office a few mornings after Gary and Ellen’s sparring apparently turned to passion, quite passionate passion, which seems to have leveled differences. There’s more Karaoke and scenes at a weekend in the country with the foursome. There’s a good deal of rather wild and witty humor with Ellen and Gary very much the focus.

Throughout the hijinks there’s Gary holding up the cynical side of discussions. Remember the first part of the name of the play is "The Age of Cynicism… Sometimes its funny but it does lead to and expose some real doubts that all four of the people share. Things almost get black, but then…then, it’s on to the second half of the play’s title the transformative and revelatory "…Karaoke Night at the Hog."

The two couples are at the club and Mama Hog is pulling their song request slips out of the jar. Debbie and Don seem to patch over any of their own doubts with a passionate "Aint No Mountain High Enough." Danielle Bruce as Ellen simply raised the hairs on the back of my neck with an electrifying "Total Eclipse of the Heart" that seemed to overcome her as well. The nerdy Gary does a nicely out of character "I’ve Got Friends in Low Places."

The play works well in many places and the idea of the alternation is a clever one. Somehow it seems to be a thin endeavor perhaps because of the switches. It’s light entertainment, but in some ways that seems quite right for an early summer offering.

"The Age of Cynicism or, Karakoke Night at the Hog" at the Bloomington Playwrights Project plays through June 17th with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at eight and a Sunday two o’clock matinee on the 11th.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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