The parking is free, the bar is open and there isn’t a kid in sight. The show, Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue, is deliciously funny entertainment for grown ups.
The Practical Theatre’s trio of writer-performers – Victoria Zielinski, Paul Barrosse and Dana Olsen – return to Studio5’s intimate stage to entertain with their sophisticated, smart and slightly madcap brand of improvisational sketch comedy.
Clocking in at around 90-minutes, plus a short intermission, this team of old friends and one couple – Zielinski and Barrosse have been happily married for more than 30 years – take the audience on a zany ride as they share their comedic interpretations of modern life and current events.
No topic is off-limits. Marriage, dating, cancel culture, inclusion, sex, politics, aging and marriage counseling are just a few of the subjects they tackle in about 20 vignettes, each with zeal and cleverness.
William Shakespeare in Hollywood? Zeus and Hera’s family tree? Jack Jones crooning? It’s all here and then some.
The revue is enhanced by the music of Steve Rashid and the Studio5 All-Star Band.
On Friday night, Ronny Crawford manned the drums, Jim Cox played bass, Don Stiernberg covered every stringed instrument known to man. Rashid also manned the keyboard, served as musical director and assisted the actors in a few scenes, all without leaving his seat.
There are no sets to speak of, just three wooden chairs that the performers nimbly move around like cards in a game of three-card monte.
This type of comedy is hard work, relying primarily on the performers’ fast thinking, verbal inflections, facial expressions and polished sense of timing combined with Gumby-like flexibility. The performers rely on a few props and some relatively uncomplicated costume changes.
The show starts off with a striptease that is a perfect capstone to the past three years of COVID craziness.
The jokes are ribald and playful with a wink to the audience, who is in on the fun. Once or twice the comic actors breach the fourth wall, that imaginary divide that separates the audience from the performers, which only adds to the sense of intimacy mixed with controlled chaos.
Zielinksi, Barrosse and Olsen have been friends since at least 1980 when they were all students at Northwestern University. The Rashids are also part of that circle of friends, and the warmth of those relationships infuses the work on stage.
There is a coziness to the venue that seats 144 people, but the feeling also stems from the comfort and ease of being with people you’ve known for ages.
After successful careers in the entertainment business and living in Los Angeles, Zielinski, Barrosse and Owen relocated to Evanston. Owen took the plunge a few years ago, Zielinski and Barrosse moved back within the past year. And they couldn’t be happier.
During the week, the space used by Studio5 (1934 Dempster St., in the Evanston Plaza) is part of Dance Center Evanston, which opened in 1994.
Dance Center Evanston serves as the home base for the Evanston Dance Ensemble, founded in 1997 by Béa Rashid, a dance educator, choreographer and theater director, who is also married to Steve Rashid. The couple opened Studio5 in 2016.
The show runs Jan. 4 -7, 2023 with limited ticket availability. To purchase, go online to Studio5 Performing Arts Center.