Arts & Events

Eye from the Aisle: MAD STASH--Hysterical, Not to be Missed, closes Feb 5

By John A. McMullen II
Monday January 31, 2011 - 08:52:00 PM

I’m nearing Medicare age, so when I go to a place where everybody is under 30, I get a little antsy; then, with a little liquor, I start to transform and regress and get back to 25 again--in about 5 minutes.

Many times I have bemoaned that too many gray and bald heads comprise the view of the audience in local theatre. I am pleased to tell you that there is a bonfire of theatrical talent glowing bright in a garage down on 55thSt. near MLK in Oakland mysteriously named the K & S Ranchito.

MAD STASH (or Mad Stache) is a series of bawdy, hysterically funny and insightful “sketches” combined with professionally edited short films combined with a band whose lead singer may well shortly become a star. It follows the Saturday Night Live model with the major difference being that MAD STASH is entertaining and you don’t want to change the channel. It makes me wish I tweeted. 

Colin Johnson writes and performs the “sketches.” What a dumb word. Used to be, in the 16thCentury street theatre called Commedia, they’d sketch-out the action and plot points, then improvise—that’s where that dumb word comes from. This stuff is well-scripted. Funny is as funny does, and he and Joshua Han have assembled an ensemble of very funny actors. 

His wife, Theresa Kelly has a voice to kill. She writes the songs and fronts the band “Korolenko,” which sounds like some Chechen terrorist group (but I’m guessing is named after some the writer and human rights activist). This young Kelly woman throws herself into her song and stage performance like Janis Joplin. Her “Born to Die” wailing blues brings tears. One Dylan-on-acid-like song rocks to give you goose-bumps. Only trouble is, most of the time you can’t make out the lyrics; kind of like trying to discern early Elvis on AM radio (yeah, yeah, that’s how freaking old I am). Here’s hoping that they throw the lyrics up on the film screen (follow the bouncing ball). There are a lot of lyrics, and my guess is that they have some poetic quality, but that’s just a guess. E and I just pretended the lyrics were in Danish and rocked along. Some of the stuff is downright discordant which serves up an enigmatic mix that swirls your mind. Plus, her high lyrical range sends you soaring. The lady has some serious chops. 

The set is a stage portal frame topped with a moustache cartouche, (the other “stash” denotation), a black hand-pulled curtain with a bed sheet screen for the films, seating on folding chairs with those worthless built-in cushions for the pretense of gluteal comfort. 

One misanthropic, smart-ass comedian named Quakenbush is reminiscent of a young Jim Carrey with that Donald Duck sensibility when DD was up in Mickey’s face (after I made this note in my book, then looked up his name in the program, I LOL’d). 

Melissa Keith has comedy written all over her, Rinabeth Astopol and Equity actress is surprisingly versatile, but her comic turns still smack of professional acting, whereas the others are transformed with Dionysiac hilarity. Kelly plays a wacked Valley girl and the Drunk Bitch, falling around and humping the MC with jelly-joints only the young and possessed can muster. 

A sampling of “sketch” titles: “That Guy Goes to the Theater,” “Mark Twain’s Big Release,” “Translated from the Greek,” “The Immaculate Massage”an all too true insight into this parlor game, “The Sack Rack” a new device for velocipedists, “This Amoral Life—Know Your Dealer” with homage to Ira Glass and NPR, and “Undercova Mutha” in which sweet-faced Apostol shines as a bad mutha (shut yo’ mouth!) 

Han, Johnson’s co-conspirator (co-director/co-writer) along with Brian Quakenbush, is a diminutive comic presence who puts on the Pee Wee/Alfalfa mad cowlick with top button buttoned. There are many other insane presences and they will crack you up if. WAIT WAIT…this is for cool people who watch the Comedy Channel and laugh at slapstickian, anonymous guerilla groin-punching, as well as a New Yorker cartoon sensibility about the plight of the waiter in a fine restaurant dealing with supercilious, entitled customers. 

Honestly, these folks should bundle up the truck and move to Beverly where they can be put on Teee Veee. Check out their YOUTUBE VIDEOS full of sophisticated silliness: Instead, each being so dauntingly talented, they’ll probably go their own way to other things. But who knows. Their website graphics give the feeling that you’re in for German Expressionism, but that could not be further from the laugh-riot you get. 

Anyway, don’t muck about; grab the most fun you’ll have this side of sex and drugs (yes, we Bay Area oldsters still do have our fun), and become young again for an evening. Excellent art is on display, and the integration of film, theatre, music, and painting saturates the senses. 

Mad Stash Thu Fri Sat February 3-5, 8 p.m at K&S Ranchito (839 55th St., Oakland). $10-$15. (573) 529-6853