A review of “Mad Scientist Cabaret,” a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes funny, always silly journey of seven creatures who learn to embrace what makes them freaky.
Typically, the creation of a mad scientist turns out to be a malevolent, uncontrollable force, wreaking havoc across whatever locale was unfortunate enough to play home to an evil genius. But in “Mad Scientist Cabaret,” a late-night variety show conceived by Evelyn DeHais and Zane Exactly, the spooky, twisted creations of a deranged mind seem to be more interested in entertaining than pillaging.
Demonstrating a sometimes impressively misguided sense of showmanship, the seven freakish creatures sing, dance and perform little sketches, each of them clad head-to-toe in black like malformed versions of Death from “The Seventh Seal.” One has arms and legs growing out of his head; another possesses long, spindly fingers. Despite the physical limitations imposed on them by a botched reanimation, they’re determined to put on a rousing show.
Their efforts sometimes resemble an alien’s attempts to replicate human behavior, like in a musical medley that begins with an aggressive rendition of “One” from “A Chorus Line” and somehow winds its way to “Y.M.C.A.”
‘Mad Scientist Cabaret’
Through Nov. 13, Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St., Seattle; $5-$10 (206-728-0933 or www.annextheatre.org).
“Mad Scientist Cabaret” was created through collaboration and improvisation. Unsurprisingly, individual segments can be uneven, but director DeHais and the cast have created a fully formed piece of theater that’s as thoughtful as it is funny. Initially, it seems like aggressive mischief is all these characters have to offer, but some segments smuggle in an unexpected dose of poignancy, like Alyza Delpan-Monley’s longing ballet routine, accompanied by transparent heart, lungs and arms puppets — just some of the meticulously designed props from Exactly.
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Ontological inquiry isn’t a typical component of most variety shows, but here, it’s the through-line that informs every one of the creature’s routines. In seeking to understand what they are and how they fit into their universe, each one discovers both the beauty and ugliness inside themselves.
If that sounds too heavy for an assemblage of comic sketches that begins at 11 p.m., let it be known that “Mad Scientist Cabaret” is also plenty silly, its routines often devolving into absurd chaos best appreciated by a slightly sleepy — or inebriated — brain.
At its best, the show approaches the anarchic comic genius of Monty Python, exemplified by a hilarious bit that begins with some grotesque shadow play and ends with a proper tea party where one creature’s brain matter is on the menu. Fittingly, the sketch leads into intermission, where the jaunty, maddening intermission ditty from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” plays.