Just a Bowl of Jell-O

Cabaret Dada and Flipside offer an evening free of thought.

After an exhausting week of slinging the hash, pushing the buttons, and downsizing the staff, the last thing any jaded executive needs is a mind-expanding theater experience. Insights into the soul, triumphs of the spirit, AIDS metaphors, and sophisticated bon mots can be so taxing. Those carefree souls who patronize Cabaret Dada need have no worries on that score. The Dada-ites attract a hardy breed each weekend of twenty-something bright young things. They still perform fraternity frolics, yet their frolics have become more sharp, bright, and lovable.

Dada leader Jeff Blanchard, who brings to mind the love child of Jackie Gleason's Ralph Cramden and an oversexed baboon, not only has star quality that puts Drew Carey to shame, but is without a doubt the funniest male in Northeast Ohio. The rest of the troupe is a solid platinum setting to show off this comic gem.

Preceding Dada's improv show is a recent import from the basement theaters of Los Angeles titled Flipside. Together these two frolics have the collective emotional weight of a bowl of Jell-O.

This phantasmagoric exhibition is what a philanthropist in a good mood might label a "madcap romp." It concerns the overactive thought processes of a stay-at-home, baby-ridden housewife named Sarah. Fortunately, the fetching, charismatic Sharon Burke plays her with a Lauren Bacall growl and a Michelle Pfeiffer insouciance.

Burke, who is brave enough to claim authorship, plays a recent Cleveland immigrant from Los Angeles in a Nick at Nite-style marriage to a beetle-browed heartthrob (played by real-life hubby Rick Burke). This husband occasionally (when he's not imitating Elvis Presley or raising his eyebrows in exasperation) harbors illusions that he is an actual flesh-and-blood human being. Together, this battery-powered Ken and Barbie at times sit still long enough to eat a bowl of corn flakes, feed the baby, and debate who is to take out the garbage. However, for the majority of Flipside's ninety minutes, they engage in a Crayola crayon fantasy life. It comes as quite a surprise that these two Mattel products would need a fantasy life to escape the stress of being plastic. Yet they engage in swashbuckling free-for-alls, and the little lady fancies herself a powerful executive, doing battle with belligerent talk-show husbands who step out of her TV screen. Rick Burke performs a gloriously gratuitous strip, while Sharon Burke engages in blushing téte-à-tétes with Blanchard's gorgeously grotesque, pop-eyed cable repairman.

In what might be the real world, the perky couple encounters their pathologically picky in-laws, and housewife Sarah commiserates with her girlfriends and her aerobics-instructor sister over the numerous crises of their love lives. To top off the evening, the hapless pair faces the possible kidnapping of their eldest child by a maniacal neighbor.

It takes a cast of amiable farceurs to supply the ballast to keep this toy balloon of a show from floating away to Parma. It's akin to an elementary school art show, full of charmingly naive speculations on what the adult world might be like. Ultimately, the Burkes' silken sensuality and Blanchard's 24-carat leering save the evening from terminal triviality.


Flipside, through February 27 at the Black Box Theatre at Cabaret Dada, 1210 W. 6th St., 216-696-4242.

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