How liberating — while driving home from Hello, You Assholes! — to note how many times I referred to other drivers as assholes. We all do it, but few confess.
Look out, here come a dozen boisterous actors singing and dancing and taunting and flaunting their asshole qualities to a black box full of asshole patrons in a show written by an asshole playwright and director. Hello, You Assholes! is not for the faint of fart.
Start again. There really is only ONE fart joke in this absurdist comedy billed as a “rock musical” yet steeped mostly in country soul. The songs, no matter the genre, are airplay-worthy; the gags, bend-over funny, especially when run into the ground. On the surface, one senses the writing is a string of recycled one-liners, clever wordplay and self-conscious, strained vignettes. Upon closer inspection, it puts us face to face with our own voyeurism, conceits and obsessions.
Protagonist Paula (Katie Brunberg) could be at home on the set of Lena Dunham’s Girls. Brunberg is a tour de force as a comic actress, with top-notch vocal chops. In the opening scene, she chances upon Bob (Zachary Wilcox, another perfect powerhouse), who is down on his luck and has been sucked into this sucky play. Real-life playwright and director Dan Sperling writes himself in as a character, played by Jonathan Wong as a sadistic villain. The fourth wall is completely nuked, in classic Woody Allen style.
This trio is joined by nine others at a house party, complete with “booze,” munchies and a satirical band (think Tenacious D with a golden-throated, tenderhearted front-man bluesman in Joshua McCreary, backed by Addicted to Love girls on guitars). The hookups, hang-ups and shenanigans reach hysterical heights when the spotlight turns on Wanda (crouching tigress Ruthie Rado) and her insane line dance that she does with Wilcox (Teach Me to Dance). One can’t imagine things getting any better, but choreographer Tracey Warr one-ups herself when Josh (adorable Collin Riley) hits the dance floor (I’d Rather Be Dancing). Also on fire is Paige Taylor as The Hooker, who manages to sing in mid-hump with her head hanging upside down off an all-purpose ottoman. But we’re caught off-guard when themes of date rape and redemption creep in.
Despite a few head-scratching scenes, Director Cathryn Benson deserves mad props for extracting multidimensional characters and maintaining an energetic pace. Only caveat: Make every attempt to drink before this one.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.