When Matthew Posey, the creative genius at the tiny Ochre House theater, decides to get silly with a new play, he gets crazy-silly. That's a good thing right now. We need some lighthearted whimsy to ward off the heavy bad-news blues, and The Egg Salesman, Posey's ova-easy new comedy, is a crackup.
Justin Locklear, the lanky actor who's the lead in many of Posey's plays these days, portrays Marvin, a seller of eggs and a bettor of dog races. He's down about 15 large to a hard-boiled bookie named Louie the Fish (Mitchell Parrack), but he hasn't told his wife, the cheery Mary (Marti Etheridge). If only he could square the debt with a tip on the next race. Does one of the greyhound pups (played by puppeteers Danielle Bondurant and Konnar Hunter) have the inside scoop on which dog will come in first?
On a stage barely larger than an omelet pan, a cartoony comedy unfolds, with occasional interruptions for original tunes written by musicians Bobby Fajardo, Jeff Keddy, Trey Pendergrass and Deanna Valone (playing live from a raised platform), with lyrics by Posey and Parrack. The song styles are somewhere between Desi Arnaz and Don Ho, with warm marimba notes, ukulele chords and lilting melodies that the cast, none of them strong singers, conveys with charm.
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The lack of fancy technical accoutrements is part of "the magic of poor theater," say the "cigarette girls" (Bondurant and Hunter), as they explain the simple trappings of the production. Cardboard clouds float above cardboard waves on the set painted in storybook colors by Isaac Davies. Puppets designed and built by Locklear sport found-in-the-dumpster materials, but are adorable nonetheless.
Nothing profound occurs in The Egg Salesman, but the actors - Christopher Dontrell Piper, Cassie Bann, Kevin Grammer and Carla Parker round out the ensemble - bounce through it with the giddy "I oughta" style of old 1950s sitcoms. Locklear grins and bends like a young Jim Carrey. Bann rolls her eyes like Lucy Ricardo.
It's all wildly eggs-aggerated, sunny-side-up silliness, with smile-worthy yolks worth toasting.
The Egg Salesman continues through May 16 at Ochre House, 825 Exposition Ave. Tickets, $17, at the door or call 214-826-6273.