Written by: Katie Lee, Meaghan Morris, Kevin "KJ" Snyder, Evan Starkweather and Nathaniel Strain
At: Annoyance Theatre & Bar, 851 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: TheAnnoyance.com; $10-$12. Runs through: Nov. 8
This show represents the first LGBTQ revue for Chicago comedy troupe Huggable Riotperhaps an apt name given the youthful, huggable charm of the performers. The hour-long, mostly scripted production includes a varied range of original comedic sketches written by the all-queer-identifying cast. Musical and singing moments also appear throughout the show, though these seem more vehicles for comedy rather than to display musical talent.
The performance space is comfortably set, with cocktail tables and chairs and a bar/lounge outside. The vibe is casual and purchasing drinks is encouraged. And while this rough-around-the-edges revue comedy ala Saturday Night Live or MADtv is geared to the LGBTQ audience, young straight folk may still connect to its millennial themes.
The jokes and sketches tend to draw from childhood and collegiate subjects, as well as contemporary TV, movies and politics. Older and more theatrically versed audiences might not connect with many of the jokes and references. However, for the young millennial-and-college crowd, this show might feel refreshingly current.
Sketches vary, from a group of friends enjoying a role-playing evening of Dungeons & Drag-Queens; to one-celled organisms discovering the joys of sexual reproduction; to the hanging of Robin Hood in medieval England; and recurring themes of "first-time" stories and coming out experiences with parents.
One memorable sketch portrays a pair of lesbian/gay teenage friends ( played by Katie Lee and Evan Starkweather ) trying to innocently watch a movie while repeatedly being accosted by Katie's overreactive parents ( Nathaniel Strain and Meaghan Morris ), who don't quite realize that nothing romantic is happening. Equally memorable is a scenario where Kevin "KJ" Snyder channels Barron Trump circa 2020, as the young man discovers his passion for wearing women's high-heeled shoes.
While the performers bring high energy and unapologetic vigor to the stage, the main drawback of this show may be its lack of more mature LGBTQ themes. Indeed, with the title Queerly Beloved, one thinks immediately of topics like same-sex marriage, gay families, long-term relationship issues, LGBTQ situations in the workplace, etc. Yet these themes are surprisingly vacant. This may be due in part to the lack of age and cultural diversity among the show's collaborators, as they all appear to be recent college folk.
That being said, however, Queerly Beloved still provides a light-hearted entertainment suitable for a Wednesday evening out. And even with the rough edges of the still-developing cast, one cannot help but wonder upon leaving this show if one of these creative young writer-performers might eventually grow to become a famous name in comedy someday.