AURORA | “Voddville” ends with the audience guffawing at a horrific self-inflicted crime scene while a familiar Partridge Family song plays in the background.
I tell you this because it’s easier to start from the end of “Voddville,” currently at the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, than it is in trying to describe this funny, quirky show by starting at the beginning.
To say that Denver comedian Hitchcock Taylor’s re-booted creation is in any way a play does disservice to this scream-of-consciousness production and to theater in general.
For about an hour and 15 minutes, the man who brought Denver Rattlebrain and a ton of awesome busking on the 16th Street Mall — as well as top-notch improv and stand-up — collaborates with Robert Dubac (“The Book of Moron”) to stage, ummm, the show.
It’s original. No doubt about that. Even though it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before, you’ve seen all kinds of things like this before. It’s part improv, stand-up, mime, Monty Python, performance art, Benny Hill, Blue’s Clues, off-off-off-Broadway experimental poetry slam group therapy and some incredibly clever digital shadow-screen shtick. I think that pretty much covers it.
If you were writing home, you might say the story, or theme, or point, is about a man’s search for happiness, promoting some thoughts about what happiness is. But if you were halfway through the show, you’d just be waiting for the next thing to happen.
Lots of things happen that seem to vaguely or metaphorically have to do the notion of searching for happiness in the same way you might ponder such deep things after falling asleep with the TV on while very drunk and having eaten too much spicy Mexican food. The frenetic dream thing works well as Taylor pegs the whole show on a large digital shadow screen. Dream sequences include hilarious skits with a blow-up doll and a lot of one-liners that range from lame to game.
There’s the show’s current weakness. Some of the material and “scenes” are absolutely brilliant think pieces or side-splitting sight gags. Others make the audience feel like it’s nearing the end of open-mic night in the below-deck lounge on a sketchy cruise ship. It’s then you begin to notice that much of this has been scraped together from a host of improv, stand-up and street performances.
Does it make for a show? That depends on how you define “show.” If you’ve ever woken up from a wildly entertaining dream and felt like the credits should have rolled at the end of it, you’re in. If you think dinner must have all the food groups, and theater should, too, you’re going to leave blinking.
But if you’re willing to roll with it, the stunts and bits that work, work really well. Taylor is hysterically funny playing both straight man to his own jokes and edgy comedian to a pleasantly bewildered audience. The show plays in the Aurora Fox Art Center’s black box, providing lots of uncomfortable intimacy, with just the right amount of wildly funny uncomfortable audience participation. The depth of Taylor’s skill as a deadpan comedian draws you in, setting him apart from just about anyone else you’ve ever seen on a theater stage.
And while some of the contrivances and scenes shuffle along, most of “Voddville” is either so weird or visually astounding or gut-achingly funny that you can’t help but realize what a good time it was as you make your way to the car.
The kitschy sound effects, oddly cheesy sentimentality, oldies and gags alternate with some of the most profoundly profane and juvenile humor ever to grace a dorm room, night club or intimate theater. If watching the show isn’t funny enough, watching the audience take it in is worth the price of admission by itself. And at the end, you get to sing along with Keith Partridge, come on, get happy.
“Hitchcock Taylor’s VODDVILLE”
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Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 6 at the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.
Tickets $22-$25; call 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org.