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Theater Review: Bad Guys in Suits

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 7, 2007 7:42PM

badguys_2007_11.JPGExtortion is funny, violence is hilarious, and murder provokes a smirk in Bad Guys in Suits, Hobo Junction’s quirky late-night tribute to the hardest times our hard-time town has ever known. It’s 1933 and the mob rules Chicago with an iron fist. When you’re not waiting on a bread line or begging for work, you take solace in a radio voice urging you to keep your chin up.

Sound like a riot? Writer Josh Zagoren makes it work, layering juvenile humor, post-modern satire, and timeless sight gags into this dark but not too bleak original work. The show largely sticks to reliable formulas. A live set of period music sets an ironically upbeat mood. Mobsters, their prey, and some show-stopping eccentrics relate their tales while fortunes intertwine in a series of comic pratfalls and the final, over-the-top confrontation resolves somewhat happily.

The broadest pratfalls, familiar even in the '30s, involve the hapless mobsters. Leo brings his overbearing girlfriend along on assignment. Gustav tries in vain to look hardened in a ridiculous red hat. Gaspar devises elaborate disguises but can’t seem to find his mark.

The zaniest stuff is much more contemporary, hilarious even if not entirely respectful of the Depression survivors to which this show pays tribute. Clichéd voiceovers sidetrack to streams of consciousness. A stripper with a ridiculous name and an impressive baritone slyly sings of self-love. A cannibal butcher harmonizes with the parts scattered on his chopping block.

Not all feels right here; the set’s clunky and a few off key renditions are less charming than intended. But it’s worth braving the Rogers Park parking drought and red line delays for this hour of solid laughs.

Bad Guys in Suits plays Thursdays – Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. at the BoHo Theater @ Heartland Studio, 7016 N Glenwood. Tickets are $15 at the door and by reservation. More information at Hobo Junction’s site.