That's the Way It Is, By Golly | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

That's the Way It Is, By Golly 

Nomenil, at Torso Theatre

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THAT'S THE WAY IT IS, by Golly, Nomenil, at Torso Theatre. Don't let the aw-shucks title fool you: Nomenil's new show is the sort of messy, sweeping, hilarious, vulgar, intelligent, profane, experimental, postmodern comedy that only a sophisticated mind - or rather a pair of sophisticated minds, Allen Conkle and Courtney Evans - could conceive. Some have compared their work to Charles Ludlam's camp comedies, and Nomenil does have something of a gender-fucking aesthetic. But there are lots of other influences as well: Brecht, Saturday morning cartoons, MTV, Mad magazine. I could go on and on, so rich is the material.

The plot is fairly simple: an overbearing mother and her sweet daughter Pattie invite God over for dinner; mayhem results when the supreme being falls in love not with Mama, who's set on having the sexy unmoved mover, but with Pattie. Around this story Conkle and Evans have created a crowd of bewitching and bewildering characters: prancing devils, wild forest women, koan-spouting ferrymen, a kooky sidekick, even a pair of sexless rag dolls to guard the gates of heaven.

The material is wildly uneven, with moments of high comedy or transcendent beauty followed immediately by bits so strange you wonder why Nomenil ever thought they'd work. But it hardly matters, because for every misfire Nomenil has six or seven hits. This fact plus a seemingly vast quantity of costumes and wigs backstage and a willing cast guarantee a breathtaking, unpredictable, highly entertaining show.

--Jack Helbig

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