Friday, July 27, 2012

KC Fringe "Prairie Village Home Companion" review by kellyluck

A playful dual parody
Rating: 4

Prairie Village Home Companion
KC Fringe Festival

Let's face it, if you are heading into the Westport Center for the Arts' production of "A Prairie Village Home Companion," you are likely A) A resident of Prairie Village area or environs, B) a fan of Garrison Keillor's perpetual radio favorite, or C) both. As a long time resident of the B group, I was looking forward to an evening of affectionate parody and good music. What got was a gleeful skewering of suburban life.

The show is hosted by Jim Sturgill (complete with red sneakers--it's the little details that count) and Suzanne Welch (who I understand also wrote the show), assisted by various floor managers, sound effects technicians, and a two-person folk combo (Tenley Hansen and Michael Fraser). The show follows very much along the lines of a truncated Prairie Home Companion: there are narratives, parody commercials, musical performances, even the "news" from the neighborhood.

Generally speaking, the comedic pieces are very strong. Keillor's jabs at his stomping grounds are always more gentle prods, but the humor here is less nostalgic, more barbed. This is not to its disadvantage, I think--indeed, I love a good bit of satire. They have clearly spent their time in the trenches, and are taking a certain wicked glee in going after the social foibles of the hybrids-and-truffe-oil set.

The musical performances interspersed throughout the show consist mainly of folk performances from both foreign and domestic sources. Now, this reviewer must admit she's not the biggest fan of traditional music, and indeed tends to tune it out, but I must admit that the duo of Hansen and Fraser are musically excellent, demonstrating their virtuosity on multiple instrument through the course of the show. Even I--musical snob though I am--found my toes tapping of their own accord.

In terms of complaints, there is really one one issue I must address. In creating a show about a certain place such as this, it is inevitable that inside references are going to happen. They have generally done a good job of using humor that can be easily understood by outsiders or at the very least applied to the upper-middle-class suburban lifestyle in general, but inevitably there will be a few references that fly by. Well, no worries. As I said, they manage to keep this to a minimum. Also, it seemed to me that Mr Sturgill's performance was just a bit subdued, but this may be in imitation of Garrison Keillor's deadpan style.

All in all, they've done a pretty good job of bringing to the stage a parody of the longtime classic radio show. The same general wit is there, the music masterfully performed, and the pace smooth and unhurried in that midwestern sort of way. One almost wishes one could tune in regularly. A local version of "Companion"? Well, a girl can dream.

A Prairie Village Home Companion continues at the Unicorn Theatre

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