MadLab Theatre‘s premieres have been a hit or miss affair over the past few years. “Stripped Away” (2008) and “The Killing Room” (2009) left much to be desired, yet last year’s area premiere of “Cabfare for the Common Man” was a bona fide home run. Their latest premiere, “The Downtown Job” by Paul Cohen, showing through Oct. 29, lies somewhere in between.
Cohen showcases the tale of three eccentric criminals as they try to use an off-off-off-Broadway dud as a cover for the perfect heist. For the dud, Cohen includes a spoof of “The Vagina Monologues” titled “The Opening of Revelations,” a one-woman show about the man “faces” of ladies’ parts.
The thieves are planning to use explosives to blow into a bank vault next door and wish to use the sound effects of the theater show to cover up the rambunctious activity that is to take place below. The criminals hilariously stumble through their unsound plan as double agents, mistaken identities, an elusive benefactor an a host of yonic metaphors, make for one pretty exciting and entertaining show.
The three thieves lead the pack as an unconventional Three Stooges consortium, who only go by their code names. Jennifer Feather Youngblood is Sturgeon, the easily annoyed leader and brains behind the operation. Brooke Cartus is Blowfish, a butch female cadet with a harsh Irish accent who enjoys stabbing things with her army knives just as much as she does blowing them up. And Scott Tobin is Seahorse, the token doofus who ends up falling for the girl he’s supposed to be duping to get the job done.
Carmen Scott nearly steals the show as Ophelia, the untalented actor at the center of the Broadway dud. She completely nails the acting-like-your-badly-acting shtick and shows pretty spot on comedic timing with the many double entendres and odes to “down below” that are part of “Revelations.” And Michael Moore puts in double duty as Jaguar, a shady explosives dealer, and Coolidge, a pompous critic with a popular theater blog (hmmm?).
Cohen’s slightly confusing script veers in and out of a pretty funny concept. A mismatched love triangle between Seahorse, Ophelia and Coolidge is intriguing but doesn’t seem to have much connection with the overall plot. And the ending seems to just be patchwork for a flawed through-line.
Director Stephen Woosley, with assistance from Jason Sudy, make quite a bit out of Cohen’s convoluted storytelling. Their deliberate pacing kept the audience in stitches for much of the show. And Doug Northeim’s spot on set design, featuring an asymmetrical represatation of a woman from the waist down, is a perfect extension of the show’s vulva-heavy themes.
In the end, “The Downtown Job” proves a typical night at MadLab, heavy on the crude with a symbolic aftertaste, yet somehow it all still goes down extremely smooth.
“The Downtown Job” runs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29 at MadLab Theatre, 227 N. Third Street, Columbus. Tickets are $12. For more information visit www.madlab.net.