Net-Flix and Kill
Multiple playwrights. At: Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: PrideArtsChicago.com; $10. Runs through: Oct. 28
The Rocky Balboa
Picture Show, Multiple playwrights. At: Corn Productions at Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: Cornservatory.org; $10-$15. Runs through: Oct. 31
There's no shortage of camp comedies for Chicago's Halloween season. Two new shows this year are Corn Productions' The Rocky Balboa Picture Show and 26 Presents Net-Flix and Kill at the Pride Arts Center.
With the Corn Productions show, you're probably better off if you know more about The Rocky Horror Picture Show rather than the multitude of Rocky sequels. That's because the big fun is guessing how the spoof musical's multitude of authors appropriate and rewrite Richard O'Brien's catchy Rocky Horror songs to suit the plot formulas of Rocky boxing films.
For instance, the introductory Frank'N'Furter song "Sweet Transvestite" transforms the laconic fighter Rocky Balboa ( Andrew Canada ) into a high heels-wearing "sweet-ass boxer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania." It's also a pleasure how "The Time Warp" is used to mercilessly rib a clichÃ© feature of any underdog sports movie.
Also very funny are many of the supporting cast membersparticularly Rocky's devious and doping Russian adversaries Ivan Drago ( Tommy Lukrich, bravely baring nearly all in a gold-lame brief ) and his girlfriend, Bridgette Nielson ( Hana Christenson ). Also very amusing is Heather Meyer as the accommodating Robot Dicko, even though her mechanical fighting character inspired by the 2011 Hugh Jackman film Real Steel might be lost on some people.
The Rocky Balboa Show, under director Ally Rinke, does have some very rough edges here and there. Audibility is a major problem for most singers competing with the blaring backing track. Also, some of the supporting characters like aren't as comically realized as others.
Yet at just a little more than an hour, The Rocky Balboa Picture Show succeeds at being concise and campy fun. The same is mostly true of 26 Presents Net-Flix and Kill at the Pride Arts Center, though it's more hit-and-miss humor.
Like other 26 hour-long editions, "Net-Flix" is a series of short sketches based upon each letter of the alphabet. In the case of Net-Flix and Kill, it is horror flicks ranging from Saw to The Silence of the Lambs that provide the main pop-cultural inspirations.
If some sketches are too baffling or lazily rely on bathroom humor, at least there's the consolation that better ones will arrive sooner or later.
The same "wait for a better one" feeling applies to the acting of certain ensemble membersespecially those who seem more concerned with showing off silly character voices rather than creating concise characters with good comic timing.
There are drawbacks to both The Rocky Balboa Picture Show as well as Net-Flix and Kill. But on the whole, they're campy ( and mercifully concise ) comedies for Halloween.