IN THIS YEAR'S VERSION of their annual sketch comedy show, Curious Comedy Theater asks the big questions about life, love, and genetic modification of basic food sources. State Fair of the Union is a fun, fast-paced series of sketches that bounce back and forth between making fun of the Portland-ness of Portland and the ridiculousness of American culture as a whole.
The show's sketches are loosely tied together with scenes from Good Morning Portland, a horrible TV morning show, hosted by horrible TV morning show hosts, played horribly perfectly by Katie Michels and Josh Stenseth. As the show moves on, a romantic drama unfolds that involves the TV station's sensitive-poet weatherman, played by the incredibly charming Sam De Roest.
Some of the sketches land a little better than others. A scene about a Portland girl coming out to her parents as straight was solidly funny, and a couple of running scenes about "Chorn," a horrifying new food product, took an amusing idea and turned it into a few great, over-the-top scenes. It was only the show's second night when I saw it, and the cast is still working out some timing to keep the scenes tight. A sketch involving a funeral and a chocolate fountain was beautifully simple and hilarious, but wandered a little at the end. I expect this one, and a couple of others, will be razor-sharp show stealers by the end of the run.
The only scenes that really didn't work were a recurring series of shorts that had a great premise but a weak, dated punchline. The "Portland Dining Club" is just two guys annoying each other in near silence. The simplicity and physical comedy came so close to quiet brilliance, it was really disappointing when the scenes fell back on making fun of a decade-old turn of phrase.
Even with a couple of scenes that didn't quite work, the show overall is fast, funny, and a sharp satirical look at our consumer, pop culture-addled world. Whether they're painting AR-15s pink, freaking out about babies at the office, or making meth on the morning show's cooking segment, the cast is fully committed and obviously having a great time on stage. The actors, the writing team, and director Stacey Hallal have crafted a great night that's only going to get better as the run goes on.