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Review: 'Hangin' Out' at the Macha Theatre

January 15, 2009 |  2:15 pm

Hangin_out_1_2It seems futile to apply critical standards to "Hangin' Out," for reasons that are apparent two minutes in. Creator-director Robert Schrock's follow-up to his smash "Naked Boys Singing" bares its wares with determined aplomb. The degree to which it lands is another matter.

The old-school revue elements are in place at the Macha Theatre: a versatile cast, a songbook that ranges from pre-Berlin to post-Sondheim, many irreverent surprises. Yet, no sooner do the six performers shed their bathrobes and tear into the title tune au naturel than a schism between content and form emerges.

What sold "Naked Boys" was its unwavering self-deprecation, a larky insouciance that trumped questions of exploitation or taste. "Hangin' Out" attempts to move that tomfoolery into wider heterosexual waters, and musical director Gerald Sternbach and choreographer Ken Roht are invaluable assets.

So is the fearless cast, which unifies contrasting styles with unselfconscious panache. Karole Foreman has a broad expressive range, a righteous gospel wail. The statuesque Heather Capps sings and underplays with verve. Lana Harper delivers the rudest double-entendres with sharply piquant timing. Eric B. Anthony demonstrates considerable physical grace. Marco Infante is a shrewd singing comedian, and Brent Keast conveys understated strength.

At times, the material, credited to Shrock and multiple authors, justifies their unfettered pizazz. Ben Schaechter and Adele Ahronheim's "Angry Naked Women" would not shame Flaherty and Ahrens. Adryan Russ' avid "Hunger" gives Foreman her best show-stopping opportunity. Rayme Sciaroni and Schrock's "Work of Art," a perspective from famous statuary and paintings, is the best moment in the show.

Elsewhere, things careen from satirical to sophomoric to sincere and back. Despite the talent afoot, the show's point is erratic, to put it mildly. "Hangin' Out" may well gain a following. It is nothing if not game. Still, the trope that sequels seldom surpass the original is regrettably on full display here.

— David C. Nichols

"Hangin' Out," Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 15. Adult audiences. (323) 960-4443. $34.95. Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Brent Keast, Heather Capps and Marco Infante. Credit: Ed Krieger.