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Money and time well spent 

California Cabaret Theatre in Avila wants you to stop by for nonstop laughs

click to enlarge ALL IT TOOK WAS A SHAKE AND A SHIMMY :  It's Monday night. You've spent enough cash at the Seaventure's Tapas Bar in Pismo. You want a departure from the norm so why not have some cheese and desserts while watching this politically incorrect romp? Jay Campbell (left) and Erik Stein share a global history lesson, pictured here in a Christopher Columbus bit. - IMAGE COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA CABARET THEATRE
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA CABARET THEATRE
  • ALL IT TOOK WAS A SHAKE AND A SHIMMY : It's Monday night. You've spent enough cash at the Seaventure's Tapas Bar in Pismo. You want a departure from the norm so why not have some cheese and desserts while watching this politically incorrect romp? Jay Campbell (left) and Erik Stein share a global history lesson, pictured here in a Christopher Columbus bit.

# Not much in life is a sure thing. You've got heartbreak, taxes, bills, and death. On the lighter end of things, you take belly laughs, smiles, applause, and cheers when you can get them. The California Cabaret Theatre delivers all of that happiness, and more, with a politically incorrect comedic punch so fierce you'll stand with the packed house after the 90-minute show and clap louder than you ever have before.

But before Free Food & Partial Nudity! gets its saucy start, the actors remind you of their roots. In their truly gracious manner, current and previous shows' cast members greet guests with animated hellos as they enter the intimate tented stage area. Barb Mercado and Jackie Hildebrand hand out the tickets, and remind everyone that they're in the director's chair for this production.

The set for Free Food & Partial Nudity! grabs viewers' attention right off the bat, if for no other reason than the piano sitting center stage, a departure from its usual place on the side with pianist Mark Robertshaw. The other surprise is that Jay Campbell and Erik Stein are the only two actors on stage throughout the show.

A la The Producers, Campbell and Stein's characters are trying to get their fictional play financed. To entice producers (Mr. and Mrs. Sid Lipbalm), they perform various parts of the play in a sped-up manic style.



In this case, the title doesn't say it all. In addition to the nibbles and bare backs, there's great singing, piano playing, and a global history lesson ranging from the Big Bang to the 20th century. It's colorful and campy. However, within a half hour, Mercado's presence is sorely missed, and Campbell has a few over-the-top moments. Still, this show is California Cabaret Theatre's best ever.

It doesn't matter what you fancy, where you're from, or what side of the bed you sleep on, you'll love this show, its energy, and the fact that the actors give 1,000 percent in their own hairy, sweaty way. There are many gems that cover various points in the world's history picture Adam and Eve with a sock puppet, or Stein as Attila with a colander on his head and singing into a plastic dorm room desk lamp. And the tameness dwindles from there.

If you're not a regular live theatre patron, this show was practically made for you. It hits points all over the historical map, and runs everyone and everything through the ringer. Nothing is off limits.

click to enlarge VIVA LA DIVA :  Don't miss this show! The next California Cabaret Theatre run won't start until December (A Very Cabaret Christmas opens Dec. 3). Here, Jay Campbell (left) and Erik Stein perform a Julius Caesar scene. - IMAGE COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA CABARET THEATRE
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA CABARET THEATRE
  • VIVA LA DIVA : Don't miss this show! The next California Cabaret Theatre run won't start until December (A Very Cabaret Christmas opens Dec. 3). Here, Jay Campbell (left) and Erik Stein perform a Julius Caesar scene.

# As far as props go, the actors work with a bare minimum (plastic grocery bags do duty as chef hats), but the gimmick works and is half the roll in the aisle. During an Antebellum scene, Campbell and Stein use gift-wrapping as frilly and hilarious yellow and pink hairpieces. And the props become mega props, meaning a houseplant transforms into a hat, a tennis racket becomes Jimi Hendrix's guitar. The improvisational costumes are a hit.

There's a method to the cabaret's madness, and if you're not laughing your booty off at Stein's Tony-worthy Eva Braun impersonation, you're missing the point of this memorable experience. Campbell is always a delight, whether at the Great American Melodrama or in other local productions. Stein can be seen in PCPA's highly anticipated Urinetown this coming August. Each actor defines the phrase "comic timing."

Admittedly, like last year's production of The Texas Chainsaw Manicurist, there are overwhelming and confusing moments here, but they don't detract from the sheer buffoonery of the show. Indeed, vignettes are the bread and butter of what the California Cabaret Theatre is all about. And for $35, locals are getting Broadway-caliber performances (Stein has, in fact, appeared on the Great White Way) in the Five Cities.

Before you sit down at one of the eight tables in front of the stage (all seats are fabulous) hit the bar at Mulligan's for a pre-show cocktail (and grab one at intermission). And just when you thought Free Food & Partial Nudity! could go on forever, Mr. and Mrs. Sid Lipbalm return and you'll just have to see for yourself how it all wraps up.

INFOBOX: Eat and look

Free Food & Partial Nudity! starring Erik Stein and Jay Campbell, directed by Barb Mercado and Jackie Hildebrand, and with music by Jed Feuer and lyrics by Boyd Graham (who together wrote the original production in 1995) will show through July 24 on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays at the Avila Beach Golf Resort. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and includes the performance, fruit and cheese, hot beverages, and assorted desserts. A full cash bar is available. Info and tickets: 489-4426 or www.CaliforniaCabaretTheatre.com.

Christy Heron loves her Fusion. Build it to last at cheron@newtimesslo.com.

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