The Big Table is a play that asks the big questions: "What are you guys on?", "Where can I get some?" and, of course, "What the fuck is happening up there?"
Plot, coherence and taste are all left for dead in this wild-eyed, slash-and-burn comedy rampage that lurches from smart satire to goofy parody to completely cracked, postmodern, stream-of-consciousness absurdity and more. When it's good, it's damn good. When it's not, you'll be too shell-shocked to notice.
Maybe Hunger Artists director Melissa Petro and writer Adam Martin had dads like mine. Unable to repress his essential immaturity after a day at some real job, my dad would burst in the door sporting Groucho Marx glasses, a fat roll of Mad magazines and a rented copy of Kentucky Fried Movie.
The Big Table (an original play by Martin) deals in that same sort of classically tasteless and over-the-top humor, the kind of stuff that flourished in the 1970s before sitcoms killed it off, before America got too jaded to think a good crotch-sniffing gag was funny.
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Table isn't sophisticated by any means—though Martin can pen a fat-guy-shitting-out-a-candy-bar bit that works on more levels than Thomas Pynchon—but it's a refreshing romp through delightfully unpretentious and snotty sketch comedy.
Don't look for anything too deep —you'll hurt yourself. Instead, watch for a devil; a sailor; a pterodactyl boy; James Bond; a "gayboy pixie"; Dr. No; a sadistic nurse; a lovelorn fat guy; a drunken, self-reflexive theater expert; a scissors-wielding woman wearing little but a cardboard box reading "You're first at Ralphs"; a very special mattress; and, obviously, much, much more.
The cast (Norman Major III, Fatima, Mark Palkoner, a revved-up Alex Dorman and a perfectly wicked Jami McCoy) is completely willing to sacrifice itself and its dignity for the cause: a play that thrives on kamikaze comedy. The predictable gags are a bit of a drag—whatever life was left in spoofing spy movies was bled out by Mike Myers—but there's enough momentum that the strong stuff (an inspired riff on Beckett with "Waiting for Godzilla," for instance) ably drowns out the weak. Things work best when they're completely insane, and in this play, things are almost always that way.
THE BIG TABLE AT HUNGER ARTISTS THEATRE, 204 E. FOURTH ST., STE. I, SANTA ANA, (714) 547-9100. FRI.-SAT., 8:30 P.M.; SUN., 7:30 P.M. Through March 18. $12; $10 WITH RESERVATION.