- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2001

You think you have problems? You could be Patsy Jones toiling away at a Radio Shack-like chain store called Electro Shack and forced to contend with a wound too tightly boss and an endless stream of geek-boy customers.

All Patsy really wants to be is a performance artist and rant about a vague assortment of society's ills and take on mythological goddesses as her personal talismans. The last thing the world needs is another performance artist, but you wind up feeling sympathy for Patsy (played with winning earnestness and edge by Rhea Seehorn). She seems like a nice kid saddled with the misfortune of attracting needy and/or psycho people into her sphere.

Electro Shack becomes an alternative universe in David Bucci's bubbly, light "Andromeda Shack" (billed as an anarcho-comedy). All sorts of misfits, malcontents and basically people who have difficulty with reality or normal social interaction come through its glass doors (which open and close with a whoosh that reminds you of "Star Trek").

Browsing through the shelves of gizmology is HiTechRiot001 (the protean Mark Shanahan), a man who still lives with his parents and spends his days creating intricate fabrications, which are not only devices that don't seem to do anything but characters he assumes in a desperate attempt to get Patsy to notice him. In a real-life version of Internet RPGs (role-playing games), HiTechRiot001 becomes a pretentious artiste of undetermined foreign origin named Xavier Valentine and a fast-talking Hollywood agent in a Hawaiian shirt.

Another customer, who actually intrigues Patsy, is Lee Osowski (Christopher Marlowe Roche), a California skater dude turned domestic terrorist. He may or may not be the guy who is bombing all the Electro Shacks, and he is also involved in some sort of underground lab that dispenses mind-altering drugs (they make you want to make war, not love) at raves.

Lee's extremism appeals to Patsy's riot grrrl tendencies, and so the two become sort of a new millennium Bonnie and Clyde. They are pursued by the overbearing detective Johnny Pigone (also played by Mr. Roche). Patsy is plagued by her boss Elinor Mann, played with hilarious mania by Holly Twyford. An assistant manager just one promotion away from health insurance, Elinor makes micromanagement a means for absurd comedy. She pages her one employee on a speaker phone, spouts corporate psycho-babble as if it were her native tongue and behaves as if Electro Shack were the center of the galaxy instead of an nerdy outpost in a strip mall.

The acting in "Andromeda Shack" is so finely tuned and David P. Gordon's set such an amusing re-creation of an electronics store (right down to the cardboard cutout of a "Star Trek" figure by the door), you can almost forget that the play is all over the place and never really makes a point other than life sure is odd.

A sitcom air pervades, as the characters drop into Electro Shack to say weird/funny things and get picked on, sort of the way things worked in "Cheers." The male characters especially are types, and although Mr. Roche and Mr. Shanahan seem to be enjoying themselves playing multiple roles, you can sense what they are going to say before they say it. Although a twitchy, obsessive delight as Elinor, Miss Twyford is almost a cliche of an overly ambitious female executive. This also is the case with Miss Seehorn as a seemingly bimbo blonde who turned out to have a She-Ra side.

This is one of those works in which daffiness and high jinks rule the day. A terrorist runs around bombing Electro Shacks. At one point, a bomb is in the middle of the floor and everyone winds up sitting on the bomb and talking about it, but never evacuating the building. The characters seem to lack logic, and therefore are more like cartoons than people.

"Andromeda Shack" offers many laughs but very little anarchy or sense of danger.{*}{*}{*}WHAT: "Andromeda Shack"WHERE: AFI Theater at the Kennedy Center, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NWWHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. April 21, through April 22TICKETS: $16 to $29PHONE: 202/467-4600


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