Burning Sensation | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Burning Sensation 

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BURNING SENSATION, Burning Sensation, at Donny's Skybox Studio. This show starts with some music lifted from Rocky Horror, vocals lifted from Johnny Rotten, three backup singers with the letters S, T, and D on their chests, and in case you haven't gotten the point, a man grabbing his crotch. The joke is labored and obvious, the point of telling it unfathomable. Most of Burning Sensation follows this disappointing pattern, wasting adept performances on a lot of laugh-poor comic scenarios.

Much of the material feels both under- and overdeveloped, written in broad strokes ungrounded in character or situation yet encrusted with in-joke ornamentation. In the show's best moments the chains of non sequiturs achieve a cool absurdity, but they're not frequent enough and sometimes seem accidental. And a few bits--in particular a white-boy rap about gentrification and a vaguely Latin-accented monologue by a Russian hot-dog vendor/guardian angel (or something)--are unwatchably awful.

The sung numbers aren't much wittier, but musical director and principal onstage instrumentalist Matt Reed is undeniably accomplished. Renee Boesch is genuinely hilarious, and her comic rapport with Reed and Zak Brown underlies several standout scenes. Sara Stotts, Jeff Thomakos, and Walter Wong also have nice turns. Yet despite its talented cast, the bulk of Burning Sensation is about as funny as a rash.

--Brian Nemtusak

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