Saving the World is a baffling piece of theater, and not just because it's built on a framework of self-referential jokes, nonsensical plot devices and wink-and-a-nod humor. No, it's confusing because of playwright Jason Burkett's muddy politics and incomprehensible message. This is clearly a case of 10 pounds of theatrical shit in a five-pound bag.
Burkett wants to say a lot, most obviously that the agricultural revolution gave humanity the leisure to develop culture, that culture produced the exploitative ideology we now live by, and that this ideology is the reason we will ultimately destroy ourselves and our planet.
But Burkett litters his script with tired pop-culture references, from Jeopardyand Richard Simmons to Pauly Shore and . . . who cares? It's Pauly Fuckingshore! It's a play that, wanting to say much, says nothing. What's needed here is a severe editing. There's no focus, and by the 50th Camaro joke, I wondered if Burkett should've written a one-act.
The performances are marred only by occasional woodenness and brief periods of mushmouthedness brought on by the amphetamine-like pace. Incredibly, even with this mess of a script, there are some belly laughs, the biggest of which come after the jokes on absurdism in the first 10 minutes.
But then we are exhausted. My confusion was punctuated only occasionally by a chuckle. I left the theater wondering if Burkett was a genius for decrying human culture while using it to get laughs or just didn't believe his own message. I still don't know. I'd try harder if Burkett had.
Saving the World at the Chance Theater, 5576 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through Feb. 23. $13-$15.
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