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I Cover the Lockerroom 

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I COVER THE LOCKERROOM

at Sheffield's

At one point in Jeff Hagedorn's new play, I Cover the Lockerroom, Michael William Randolph turns and bitchily addresses the audience, inadvertently giving away the heart of the show. "Have you figured out that if you finished your first drink," he asks, "you could go to the bar and get another one and not "miss any of the deeper meanings of this play?"

The problem here is not just that the play is so airy, or that Randolph's narrator is ultimately grating and patronizing. Light fare is fine, but not when its vacuousness is delivered with this much condescension. The biggest joke in Lockerroom was that the audience was tricked into actually paying to see it.

Intended as a screwball sports comedy salted with Chicagoese, Lockerroom shows Hagedorn disdainfully dishing out something that looks like a play but that barely shows any love for his craft or for the people who come to hear and see his efforts.

Throughout Lockerroom, the smug narrator cynically signals the audience--"Are you confused yet?" "I don't know about you, but I feel a climax coming up anytime." The device serves only to advertise how well the playwright has mastered the structure, if not the heart, of his art.

One of Chicago's most prolific playwrights, Hagedorn wrote the first AIDS play, One, which is a searing piece of work. Since then he has served up several hits, including The Layman's Guide to Safe Sex, High Risk Romance, and Clowns in the Kitchen. His work is often bitingly funny, highly entertaining (in spite of the usually serious topics), and energetic. All of which makes I Cover the Lockerroom even more disappointing.

Produced on the tiny stage at Sheffield's, Lockerroom was performed with casual good humor. Because Hagedorn has developed a following, there was also an easy familiarity between the audience and the actors, several of whom are Hagedorn regulars. There was a lot of laughter, but it was so predictable I wondered whether the room was stacked.

Lockerroom follows the adventurous Rachel Kincaid, intrepid girl reporter, as she goes about the business of spotlighting postgame goings-on in the locker rooms of Chicago's professional sports teams. There's an overload of sports metaphors and puns, most of which can be anticipated, and most of which go on too long. Women sound an awful lot like gay men but generally fare well. In particular, Josette DiCarlo's Rachel, although no brain surgeon, has a certain dignity even in the worst situations. Overall, the play is a little more camp than TV, but at its core it's sitcom humor.

Somewhere along the line, Rachel convinces herself she's stumbled onto the scoop of a lifetime when she suspects a male prostitution ring. Of course, it's just a misunderstanding. There should be laughter and confusion at this point, but those with a minimum IQ will see it coming and going before Rachel's had a chance to bat her eyelashes. In the grand finale, the threads are loosely tied together.

There are a few truly amusing moments, and most of them belong to Patrick Lavery, who during one memorable scene plays five different characters. Lavery uses almost nothing to prop up some damn good parodies of such well-known Chicago characters as Harry Caray, Steve Stone, and Jim Frey. Unfortunately, Lavery can't hold up the story all by himself.

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