A Couple of Balls | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Couple of Balls 

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A Couple of Balls, Great Beast Theater, at the Cornservatory. Those who found American Beauty to be a rather facile comedy pandering to the same hypocritical middle-class sensibility it purported to satirize may find some confirmation of their views in this unimpressive pair of one-acts penned by the screenwriter, Alan Ball. Beyond that there's little to recommend these familiar sitcom critiques of mainstream American materialism, self-absorption, and disaffection.

The better of the two plays is a brief Saturday Night Live-style sketch called Your Mother's Butt, which features some cartoonishly surreal touches in the character of an incurably shallow yuppie patient and a strong performance from Laurie Crowe as his put-upon shrink. But this 15-minute sketch follows an equally long and entirely superfluous intermission, preceded by the excruciating Bachelor Holiday. This meandering, talky depiction of one morning in the life of three supremely uninteresting twentysomething roommates juxtaposes sub-Odd Couple one-liners from the mismatched threesome with sophomoric contemplation of man's insignificance. Combine the script with stiff, mannered overacting on an odd, inappropriate set seemingly left over from another production, and you wind up with something that makes American Beauty look like Nabokov.

Ball has also written for the TV shows Grace Under Fire and Oh Grow Up, but neither of the plays in "A Couple of Balls" could even pass muster as pilots for the WB. And as everybody knows, a couple of Balls are plenty, maybe more than enough. Life's too short to spend on mediocre one-acts.

--Adam Langer

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