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Arts and Entertainment

FrankenMatt's 'American Imperil' Dooms America to Laughter

Photo courtesy FrankenMatt.
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What do you do when you just can’t stand the world around you anymore? When the politics of today seem to be dimming the lights on your once-bright future, and the only people who even deign to notice are the smirking corporations? If you’re Second City duo FrankenMatt, you put up a comedy show.

Running the frustration gamut from Chik-Fil-A hypocrisy to the bald-faced arrogance of campaigning politicians, Matt Craig and Frank Caeti’s new show "American Imperil" seeks to teach as much as offer laughs. Sure, there’s the silly reemergence of longtime FrankenMatt sketch character Charlemagne Leroy, an egg-shaped stuffed doll who never answers for himself on the serious crimes shouted against him. But, not two minutes later, there’s a biting moment between a couple of Southern-fried Republicans in a hot tub, expounding on gay marriage while trying to hold back their own passions.

If you’ve seen a FrankenMatt show before (and you should, they’re absolute Second City LA staples), you know that their work is always a twist of life. Sometimes absurd but often as simple as mishearing lyrics to a song on the radio, they are at their best when the trenchcoat of fourth-wall theatre is cracked open slightly, revealing two kids on each others’ shoulders, pretending along and giggling away. "American Imperil" finds these moments often, infusing the show (as always) with interstitial dance numbers and an honest sense of fun.

The ultimate balancing act in this show, between the just-two-friends-on-a-road-trip moments and those occasions where the political heat becomes oppressive, is a tough one. And often, it doesn’t tilt in the favor of unbridled comedy, but that’s largely not FrankenMatt’s point. "American Imperil" is splashed in hefty spoonfuls from a cauldron of fear, annoyance, dismay, and the sort of anger at apathy that plagues anyone removed from a younger generation. There are entire sketches that push this toxic broth, showing us all with little fanfare the danger of our choices.

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The result is a show on a leash that can’t determine how far to run in either direction. If FrankenMatt are at their best when the collar snaps and the slobbering bulldog takes down a dinner party by the tablecloth, "American Imperil" is at times the hyperactive mutt that doesn’t know which direction to turn, so it runs itself in circles.

There’s a reason the show hits those serious moments of political ineptitude, and it would be a mistake to not acknowledge that obvious fact. The show is called "American Imperil," after all. But by reigning in the type of comedy we’ve come to love from FrankenMatt, and rounding out some of the moments of true candor, what’s left is a show that satiates, but doesn’t truly satisfy. There are big laughs and a few moments that may leave you spilling your soda, but don’t be surprised if "American Imperil" doesn’t altogether make for a meal of a show.

FrankenMatt: American Imperil
Fridays @ 8pm through April 27th
Second City Hollywood
6560 Hollywood Blvd.