Jack O'Shea in Cas O'Blanca | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jack O'Shea in Cas O'Blanca 

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Jack O'Shea in Cas O'Blanca. Hairy Calahan Productions, at the Chicago Actors Studio. The third installment in the O'Shea series centers on a WWII-era Nazi plot to feminize the American GI. Needing a truly butch test subject, the evil Dr. Schnausinger naturally selects cartoon-noir hero Jack, who's down-and-out in north Africa. Amid the riot of overdone accents, sodomy jokes, and slapstick brutality that ensues, writer-star James Cook manages to fit in an appealingly crude parody of Casablanca.

The cast sell the script's humor with sick determination, led by two excellent actors in big supporting roles: Tony Janning (the somewhat Renault-like Pierre LeBeaujalais) and Benjamin Capps (Schnausinger). Cook, channeling Bogart by way of Norm McDonald, is more one-note but pulls off his second-act transformations with surprising grace. The rest generally make up in energy what they lack in technique.

On the whole, though, it's a show too stupid and sophomoric to recommend--which seems here a point of giddy pride. The best moments result from liberal application of the no-gag-too-cheap principle to conventions like flashbacks (via projected stock and "dramatized" footage, riddled with clues to its phoniness), blackouts (seven or eight of them close act one), and death scenes (it's a looong one). Director Andy Lawfer ably plays this jackassery off the reverence often accorded the classic original, and through the magic of repetition, most bits that don't work pay off in one that does. Whether you've got the patience to wade through them is another matter.

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