Review: Textual Healing at Gorilla Tango
There was one thing I liked about Textual Healing, the new show from sketch group Salsation, and I liked it a lot. But first, the not so good news. Aside from a couple of sharp blackouts, Textual Healing is a mixed bag of mediocre scenes and hammy performances. Not much stands out in this latest set of material.
Too often, niche sketch groups like Salsation (which is made up of mostly Latino performers) and Gayco, aim for Second City-style revues and end up with second-tier versions in the process. Their first scene, for example, a musical number in which they sing about "feeling blue about being brown," announces the difficulties faced by Latinos in today's America. But even the Second City is beginning to do away with these kinds of ham-fisted numbers aimed at drilling a loose theme into the audience's skull and other sketch groups should retire them as well. Meanwhile, a relationship scene between an ostensibly interracial couple tries too hard to mimic a trick employed on Seinfeld in which Elaine thinks she's dating an African-American man who turns out to be just another white guy. However, a blackout scene that takes aim at the TSA kills. It offers a stellar performance from one ensemble member and has satirical bite; if only a sketch in which Biblical women try and set the record straight showed the same sharp wit.
But when Salsation ends Textual Healing with an improvised telenovela based on the audience suggestion of queso, the show and actors spring suddenly to life. Between the gratuitous bitch-slapping, All My Children references and shock confessions ("I slept with your sister," says one character. "I am my sister!" reveals the other) is the spark of something fresh. I'd be curious to see what would happen if Salsation dropped sketch for awhile and focused exclusively on a show that played as a weekly soap opera much like The Davenports does at the Playground. My only regret (other than the poor object work illustrated by one actor who pantomimed a gun by pointing her fingers together) is the fact that they dimmed the lights just as the crowd was warming up to this joyous form. Salsation, give us more of this tomfoolery por favor.
Textual Healing plays Saturdays at 6pm at Gorilla Tango Theatre.