Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mark Baratelli's Improv Cabaret

Is it crazy to thumbs-up a show that will be completely different at each performance? Maybe, but I'm going to do it anyway, because Mark Baratelli's completely improvised forty-five minute cabaret set (at the Fringe Festival) slapped a huge, silly smile on my face. With no planning and no suggestions from the audience, quick-thinking Baratelli not only makes up the cheesey imitation American-songbook numbers on the spot but also the faux-confessional banter in between: the result is a light, affectionate send-up of the genre's illusion of emotional intimacy between performer and audience. The joke is that the intimacy here is fake but he delivers it with the portent and the heightened emotional pitch of the real thing: at the performance I saw, his increasingly ludicrous story about a childhood spent with corn husks for friends segued into a ridiculous uplifting anthem about finding one's way home to the corn. Mark Baratelli knows a thing or two about shucking corn and getting a bite out of it.

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