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Whammy! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self
Created by Maggie Conroy and Chuck Harper
Directed by Chuck Harper
YoungLiars
September 26, 2019

Maggie Conroy, Gabe Taylor, Keating, Jeffrey Skoblow
Photo by Valerie Goldston
YoungLiars

YoungLiars are back, and they’re as unconventional as ever, with a new, revised production of a show they’ve performed before, with the intriguing title Whammy! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self. Like other works this company has performed, this production is solidly in the “experimental” category, and it’s certainly unique. It plays out as more of a series of sketches than a linear story, highlighting the comedic and dramatic skills of the talented ensemble.

It’s difficult to categorize this show. It starts out as something of a stream-of-consciousness sketch comedy, but the subject matter gets darker as the show plays out. There are some hilarious moments, some absurd moments, and some downright tragic tales told here. Subtitled “The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self”, the show is something of a free-form examination of various elements of the self-help movement, with credited inspiration from a number of well-known and lesser-known authors including Tony Robbins and Dr. Phil. The six-member ensemble (Maggie Conroy, Frankie Ferrari, Michael Cassidy Flynn, Keating, Jeffrey Skoblow, and Gabe Taylor) shows off a range of skills, as movement is a large part of the show, from 60s-style dancing to comedic “acrobatics” with chairs, and more. There are also a few running sequences, such as one in which cast members are paired up to ask each other questions about kissing, with a mostly comic tone that turns truly bizarre in the last of these pairings. All the cast members except Skoblow are clad in white costumes, with Skoblow decked out in a black-and-white ensemble and a pair of steampunk-ish goggles. There are movement exercises, monologues, and moments of dancing. There are some potentially disturbing sequences as well–the production has posted a trigger warning concerning topics of depression and suicide, as well as a loud gunshot during the show. It’s impossible to describe this show adequately and do it justice. Essentially, it’s an experience, running the gamut of emotions and philosophies and  displaying their considerable comic timing and sheer emotional range.

The staging is energetic and well-paced, with a confrontational tone on some occasions and some engagement with the audience at times. Every cast member is excellent, and this is truly and ensemble work, with an excellent sense of cooperation and chemistry between the actors. The sound by Chuck Harper, lighting by Theresa Kelly, and costumes by Maggie Conroy are striking, as well, fitting the production well into the performance space in a ballroom at the Centene Center for the Arts.

This is a truly bizarre show, but also truly thought-provoking and memorable. It’s probably not for everyone, and will especially appeal to fans of experimental theatre. It’s inventive, energetic, and clever, with a first-rate ensemble. Oh, and not to spoil anything, but there’s a reason that there’s a picture of a banana on the program. Remember the banana!

YoungLiars is presenting Whammy! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self at the Centene Center for the Arts until October 5, 2019

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