Overtime Theater, a San Antonio haven for new drama, adapts America’s indigenous genre for the stage in a romp called Sob! Choke! … Love! By adapt, I mean it performs 1960s and ’70s romance comics word for word, from the first sexual innuendo to the last un-PC punch line. Sob! Choke! … Love! is a playground of thought-bubble voiceovers, hand-held “vroom” and “wham” signs, and rasterized backdrops. Each scene takes place in its own frame, and characters stick their heads out of square panes like Roger Rabbit crawling off the page.
Save yourself the airfare, because SNL’s got nothing on this goldmine cast of comedians. Wigs blind characters mid-soliloquy and cartoon telephones are held upside down so artfully that I pined for the bygone days of Charlie Chaplin. The actors hit most of the tricky cues as they scamper through blackouts to pose for a single-frame smooch, and with a bigger budget and another week of practice, the timing could be seamless. But with a killer concept to support them, Sob’s lo-fi effects are loveable.
In a 1968 strip called “You’re Fired Darling,” a working woman must fire her subordinate and risk emasculating her heartthrob. The ingénue flatters her beau in one frame and mimes anguish and heartbreak in the next. Comedienne Hayley Burnside, whose dry wit could rival Johnny Carson’s, had the house roaring. So innocent is the depiction of obsolete gender inequality and marriage as cure-all that not even the staunchest feminist or Native American activist could leave in a huff. (However, Overtime Theater encourages you to sue them, because they “could use the publicity.”)
Leading males Jason Lee Boyson and Stephen Brogdan will have grannies and teenyboppers alike in the palms of their hands as they bring one-dimensional paramours to life with high-school quarterback charm. But I was won over equally by mom and pop Joanne Cabrera and David Clingan, whose Irish accents and Taylor Mead-like whimsy make them an all-star duo. In “The Last Kiss” (1973), they portray cruise-line owners who play matchmaker to the weak and dying heroine (It’s the consumption, ma!) This comic strip seems to fore-parody contemporary romantic melodramas, and I could almost see a young Winslet and DiCaprio brooding and lovesick.
Sob! Choke! … Love! is pure fun, costs the same as a ticket to Titanic, and is a hell of a lot shorter. I dare Overtime to take on Manga next, or even stage a 1950s public- service announcement. After this grand-slam production, no one-dimensional art form is out of the question. •
Sob! Choke! ... Love!
Through March 1
The Overtime Theater
1216 West Ave.