Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton’s Game Show is simplicity itself. It is a game show wedded to a hoary vaudeville-level-plotting showbiz story. The characters are really comic archetypes, the dialogue is zippy, the stakes are heightened yet low. It is essentially written to be a “chestnut”, one of those plays done regularly by companies because of their solid entertainment value. Think along the lines of Gaslight, Mousetrap, Bullshot Crummond, Greater Tuna, Separate Lives, to name just a few. Meat and potatoes theater, in essence.
Though Chinese food may be a better analogy, for Game Show, currently in production at Theater Schmeater, is so light as to completely evaporate from one’s collective awareness within the hour. Which isn’t to say that the ingredients of the meal aren’t worthy of discussion. All food puns aside, the play’s modest ambitions are successfully conveyed by a clever concept and a game cast. The concept has already been described above, there really isn’t more to it than that. The game itself is simply three rounds of general trivia questions being asked of the contestants–who are volunteer members of the audience–three contestants per round the winner of which goes on to the championship round, which is a modification classic Password. You gain points for correct answers, lose none for incorrect ones, but you do lose a major portion of them if you don’t come up with anything, so it’s better to take a wild guess or make something up than not. Consolation prizes run the gamut of Game Show t-shirts to gift certificates for close-by restaurants and bars. The grand prizes vary, but they are pretty substantial and well worth taking the chance to win.
As far as the game cast is concerned, it is hard to argue with Brandon Felker as the host and narrative center of the titular game show in question. Felker, who can also be seen performing with his improv troupe Blood Squad this weekend, is one of the stand out comedic personas in the current generation of improv comedians, which is saying something. His skills are put to good use as the narcissistic, jaded and charming host of Game Show. It is similarly difficult to quibble with the presence of Danielle Daggerty, who continues her recent run of femme fatales in genre fare and adaptations (Annex’s Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors, Ghostlight Theatrics’ Paper Bullets). Also pleasant to spend time with are Stephani Thompson, Ben McFadden, Thomas Maier, Ben Burris and Buddy Mahoney.
These are good performers, put in stock characters placed in a situation that is wound up like a toy soldier, mixed with audience participation and then let go for comedic effect. The less one gets bogged down with technical details (the number of illogical behind-the-scene inconsistencies presented by the script are too numerous to get into) and just play along with both the story and the game, the better.
It is, in other words, a typical summer offering from Theater Schmeater’s latter end of its production run. What’s notable about this one is that it will be the final production presented in the former parking-lot-turned-theater. It’s been a run filled with programming both daring and mundane; the venue has been host to many personalities and talents that have moved on to wider acclaim and work elsewhere. While it is likely you would have heard or seen the work of people like Wayne Rawley, Sheila Daniels or Yussef El Guindi (to name just three) without Theater Schmeater, the company’s presence on Capitol Hill (during the past twenty formative, boom/bust years in Seattle) made that possibility even likelier. While the company goes in search of a new place to call home, the cramped space with the low ceiling, customary support beams, lack of fly space and improvised wing space, along with the best combination green room/dressing room in Fringe, will be missed.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00p.m.; through August 17 // Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit Avenue // $15 in advance through Brown Paper Tickets, $18/at the door