"Tourist Trap," the latest offering by the pleasantly manic young comedy ensemble Video Buddies at the WPA Theater, takes aim at a range of deserving Washington targets, and winds up hitting home more often than not.
Drawing from a palette of ideas and images that are primarily television-inspired (hence the name), the six-member hometown cast poked gently last night at a city that takes itself seriously, and zipped through 16 bits without one tired impersonation from the Reagan administration.
The skits vary in quality, from sharp, snappy satires that "SCTV" would envy, to blunt, sophomoric attacks. Happily, there were more of the former. The troupe was strong on ensemble acting and everyone seemed adept at physical comedy, sidestepping the "talking heads" syndrome of some TV shows.
One skit worked solely on a physical level--a "royal family" routine was semi-funny at normal speed, 33 r.p.m., but when repeated at 45 and then 78 r.p.m. it produced hilarious results. A routine about a secretary being sexually harassed by her two overbearing bosses was a little heavy-handed, but the actors hit their marks. And two pieces were original and very funny: an entire Washington cocktail party is boiled down to the bare-bones content of its empty phrases; and a synthesis of every monster/mystery movie ever made in less than three minutes, soundtrack, lightning and all.
One unfortunate entry, "Tourist Trap," the title skit, marred the evening. A sneering cheap shot at Washington's tourists, it left an ugly aftertaste. But it contained one redeeming bit, a nifty Gilbert & Sullivan parody cataloguing Mall museums that the Smithsonian would be wise to borrow.
Most impressive was elastic, energetic Bruce Tobin, who, as the unctuous "Alistar Crock," introduced a series of "WPA Highlights," which neatly mocked the often esoteric offerings of the Washington Project for the Arts, from "The Quantum Leap Dance Ensemble," in which a zealous dancer bangs into walls accompanied by kazoo and "prepared spoons," to the "All Caucasian Black Theatre Company," three white actresses doing Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls . . ." with finishing school-perfect diction.
The cast was versatile and lively, and, more important, less self-conscious than the audience, which numbered about 20 and at times seemed too intimidated to laugh out loud.
"Tourist Trap," by Video Buddies & Gross National Product, produced by the Washington Project for the Arts, directed by Video Buddies, lighting and sound by Roger Tolliver, with James Bowling, Patty Hardee, Bill Largess, Vanessa Stout, Bruce Tobin, Wendy Yondorf.
At the WPA Theater through Saturday.