Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Vision Quest/Ray BradGary

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(l to r) Brad Einstein, Gary Pascal/Photo: Anonymous

Brad Einstein, Gary Pascal/Photo: Anonymous

You’re invited to silently witness a drug tourist spiritual quest. The drug: Ayahuasca. The travelers: local comedy duo Ray BradGary. The duo, comprised of Brad Einstein and Gary Pascal, hallucinate through disparate scenes and encounter ridiculous characters in Public House Theatre’s “Vision Quest.”

Introduced by a pair of mellowed huckster shamans with liberal arts degrees and an infuriating habit of dismissing all concerns with an irritatingly tranquil and superficial “Namaste,” the show moves along mocking tropes of faux enlightenment dupes and dupers. With a hallucinogen as main plot device, the script is free to roam on and off topic, to any locale for any scenario, all under the umbrella of the trip.

Thanks to the South American setting, a couple of singing, dancing Nazis feature prominently. Most of the Third Reich humor fails to actually amuse—rhyming words with “Nazi” in an enthusiastic musical number might have gained laughs merely on shock value some decades ago, but here amounts to the weakest comedy in this production. It is intriguing that the rhymes are used in a recurring number that seems to exonerate these goose steppers by unrealistically placing the blame for any and all ills at the feet of the Fuhrer’s minions; intriguing, though perplexingly unexplored. In their guise as proprietors of a local tourist stop, the two Germans do serve up a visually successful gag: a plate of swastika waffles.

Much of the humor is coarse, and some of it works quite well. Einstein and Pascal share a bucket, cheek-to-cheek, in a bout of fiery diarrhea brought on as a side effect of their drug intake and blast out agonized commentary at about the same propulsive pace they painfully defecate. A maternal mirage (Erin Kay Van Pay) manages some laughs as she spurs our heroes on when they’ve just about lost all hope. And in the funniest sequence, Pascal in pilot gear explains to his wife (Van Pay) the dangerous fanciful flight he’s about to take. In his figurative flight, he has fantasized he’s taken on a high stakes air mission—against promises he’s made to his supposedly caring wife. In this brief exchange, the couple’s seething, immediately-below-the-surface hatred for each other is verbalized in a series of rapid, cruel sexual put-downs—starting with a horrible admission of violent ideation that’s hilarious in its stark vulgarity.

The opening I attended became at the last minute a press preview instead. An actor had dropped out and so Ray BradGary was reworking the show. I imagine the staging and performances should be smoother once the troupe settle in to whatever adjustments are made. The real weakness of “Vision Quest” is that too much of the humor is canned. Repeated riffs on the stars’ bad Spanish or on the pretensions of the vapid spiritualists who bookend the show wear out quickly and the whole Nazi bit could use reimagining. Overall the show exhibits promise and delivers some genuine funny bits but seems a bit like a rough draft. (Raymond Rehayem)

Ray BradGary at Public House Theatre, 3914 North Clark, (800)650-6449, pubhousetheatre.com. $10. Through June 23.

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