The newest addition to Orange County's theater scene is housed in a most unassuming office complex in a most unassuming part of Santa Ana off Bristol Street. The name of the space is the Second Stage Theater. The name of the company is the Berubians. And the name of the current show, Take Your Beaver and Blow, provides the first legitimate reason to hope that the troupe and the venue will add something to local theater.
An uneven, poorly put-together collection of unrelated sketches, bits and comic improv exercises, Beaver is still ultimately entertaining—thanks mainly to the audacity of a couple of its writers and a pretty talented cast. None of the 25 sketches or improv exercises is longer than four minutes, making it hard to aim for anything higher than a cheap, quick laugh or shock ending, but there are several effective pieces. Generally, the more outrageous the better. In "Cops," two female cops brutalize a gay hustler during breaks in a conversation about an upcoming birthday party for one of their kids. In "Driving," we discover a teenage driver (Jerusha Belles) suffering something more pathologically off-center than mere road rage.
Those performers who follow the material's lead and push their work as far as it can go shine brightest, with Belles, Elizabeth Clark and Erika Jackson—all of whom play a variety of bent, distorted and memorable characters—the highest points among the talented cast. (As far as crediting the writer, we can't; no program was supplied on opening night.)
If there's a general bitch about the evening, it's the total lack of direction. At two hours and 15 minutes, this night is too long by at least half an hour. Scene changes take forever, the lighting design has two looks (on and off), and there's a general sloppiness to just about every technical detail—all of which makes Beaver not so much amateurish as irritating. Chaos is great in the theater—when it's orchestrated. The haphazard direction isn't fair to the cast, which works its collective ass off, or to the audience, which must endure painful asses by the time this night ends.
Though it's still a long way from theater, Beaver provides evidence of real talent at work. There is room in this county for a sketch-comedy troupe committed to outrageous, irreverent material. With more attention to packaging that material, the Berubians may eventually be that troupe.
Take Your Beaver and Blow at Second Stage Theatre, 2122 S. Grand, Ste. C, Santa Ana, (714) 545-3852. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. Through Dec. 18. $10.
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