Karma | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Karma, Live Bait Theater. Perhaps playwright Mary Scruggs wanted to set an example for the students in her writing program at Second City. An example of what not to do. See the lame jokes that fall flat? The trite rehashing of familiar material? The insistence on telling the audience everything? These are what you should avoid, dear students. It's a bad sign that one of the only things to earn a laugh in the show's 100 minutes was a split second of silliness when a temp worker flung a piece of candy at his boss.

Directed by Marc Gagne, Karma revolves around the dismal relationships among five coworkers threatened by restructuring. They're addressing their issues with the help of an overzealous corporate therapist who uses hypnosis to teach them how their past lives are reverberating today. The "regressions" are enacted in tableaux that enable the ensemble to shift gears from overdone mugging to stiff dullness.

Scruggs's mix of self-help and soap opera is simply not funny, and the play completely implodes when she decides to toss in enough drama for an episode of ER and ends with a heartfelt message (cue swelling Enya music). Karma is billed as "the office comedy that just won't quit," but audience members enduring this mess are left aching to hand in their resignations.


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