Revisiting the classics in the ridiculous ‘American Lit’ at Annoyance Theatre


A book-nerdy friend of mine suggested I check out a silly little show called American Lit at Annoyance Theatre. The premise:

A collection of memorable pieces of American literature, retold with a twist. Set in a dystopian “Fahrenheit 451” future, American Lit imagines a time when all the old classics will be passed down from generation to generation in an oral tradition. But, like any game of telephone, the lines get crossed. A delightful mashup of literature, pop culture, and time travel, this Triple Feature turned full-length casts a razor wit and an absurd eye to those musty books from your High School English class.

Sounds like a good time!

The result? Me laughing nonstop for the hour-long sketch, which recreates Of Mice and Men, where the large and simple Lennie Small (Wes Perry) runs off into the woods to frolic with bunnies, a puppy (Kirk Mason) and an unstable wanna-be movie star housewife (Seth Dodson); The Scarlet Letter, where Hester Prynne is a guest on Maury and sports a ridiculous Boston accent; Huckleberry Finn, where Huck travels the Mississippi River with a Russian sex slave (Christina Boucher); and, my personal favorite, a sketch that combines every Tennessee Williams play known to man into 5 minutes of bust heaving, face slapping, face fanning ludicrousness. Oh, and there’s also a shocking retelling of the final moments of To Kill a Mockingbird, which doesn’t quite end the way Harper Lee intended. That Boo Radley is damaged goods, y’all.

But the showcaser was the final, and most realized, sketch: “Moby Dicksical,” which condenses Herman Melville’s epic classic into a 15-minute pop musical, featuring a rather inspired score by Dunbar Dicks. One of my favorite moments was that elusive whale, Moby Dick (played by Boucher in a blue dress and Marge Simpson wig), wailing this lyric into a microphone: “You keep on sailing, I’ll keep on whaling!”

Clever. And stupid. And laugh-out-loud funny.

I’m trying something new for 2011 — a CTA Index Rating. I’m going to rate each show on a ten-point scale. This way, I will be able to more effectively track my theatre-going habits and history.

CTA Index Rating: 8 (While I had a great time, I do realize the sketches and execution where a little rough around the edges. But whatever.)

“American Lit” plays one more performance at the Annoyance Theatre: Wed. Feb 2. Tickets and info here >

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2 Comments

  1. I am hearing about this show for the first time. Thanks for the post.

  2. Okay, I love stuff that’s nerdy/silly like this. Chicago Dell’Arte’s “The Literati” also messed around with classic literature and had me way happier than it should have. I need to check this one out.


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