Concentrated! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Concentrated! 

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Concentrated! at Live Bait Theater.

Jeff Garlin has already shown us, in shows like I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With and That Jeff Garlin Thing, that he's a master at wringing laughs out of his own misfortunes. But funny as these shows were, they were still little more than glorified stand-up routines, with autobiographical stories replacing the one-liners. Which is what you'd expect from a performer who cut his teeth in comedy clubs.

But in Concentrated!, performed under the watchful eye of director Marc Grapey, Garlin attempts something more ambitious: a one-man show with a single, unified narrative a la Spalding Gray. Like him, Garlin begins with a personal crisis--a conviction that his rebellion against homophobic, sexist, and just plain dumb contemporary stand-up has virtually killed his career as a comic. Then he recounts the history of his crisis as well as its resolution, starting with his 1 AM slot at a Florida comedy club in the early 80s and ending with a comedy festival in Ireland several months ago.

This narrative spine in turn gives Garlin the opportunity to do more than just generate laughs. Time and again he follows a laugh with a moment of pathos, as when he interrupts his very funny account of the hell that is LA with a discussion of his increasingly immobilizing anxiety attacks. The result is a rich, resonant show as entertaining as comedy and as satisfying to the soul as good theater.

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