“28 Plays Later” = 21st-Century Vaudeville

Posted on Monday 15 September 2008

By Greggory Moore

If you happened to check out both the Gazette and OC Weekly reviews of Alive Theatre’s 28 Plays Later, you’re probably very confused. As the Gazette has it, this is maybe the single greatest theatre experience ever, while the OC Weekly wants to warn you off of wasting precious minutes of your life on absolute garbage. Well, never mind them both. What Alive Theatre is doing for one more Sunday at Koos is simple: it’s vaudeville for the 21st century.

Over the course of a frenetic hour-and-a-half, Alive Theatre move through dozens of skits (“plays” is a misnomer; the title sees to have just been slapped on), many of which involve music (supplied by a live band), all of which are unabashedly silly. The writing is inconsequential, to be sure, but because this is all about the performance, that fact is inconsequential is itself inconsequential. Maybe the only objective prerequisite for vaudeville is that the performers sell it. Well, there can be no doubt that Alive sell every moment, expending enough energy for each performance to qualify as a workout. The performers also play heavily to the audience, not so much breaking the fourth wall as making sure it’s never erected; the result is that audience members feel free — hell, they’re encouraged — to react as loudly and intrusively as they want…you know, like vaudeville.

Go to Koos (koos.org) on Sunday (8 p.m.) desirous of a traditional theatre experience, and you are certain to be disappointed. But if you’re interested in seeking out the kind of show that advertises itself as “a shit ton of fun in a wee bit of time,” you might find it’s money well spent. I did not get the impression that anyone at the performance I saw will be asking Alive Theatre (alivetheatre.org) for a refund of their 10 bucks.

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