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Blood

Weekends at 157 Camden St., Boston

By Frank Rich

ITS GETTING worse all the time. You look at this crazy, screwed-up world bursting out all around you, and you wonder how long it will be before you're as nuts as Mayor Daley and his cops. So what can you do? You can cancel your subscription to the Times and start reading Field and Stream. Or hide in your room and watch I Dream of Jeannie on TV. Or take drugs and forget about everything.

Or you can take solace in the sick joke. You can think about how this mess could be even worse than it already is. You can stay a step ahead of this progression of American society, feel superior to it, feel creative, laugh and enjoy. Black humor becomes a black plague, and the plague becomes an orgy of delight.

But there is an every increasing obstacle in the way of all this happiness. As America sinks deeper into its illness, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep a step ahead of it. It is necessary to be sicker than Mencken was 40 years ago, sicker then Lenny Bruce was ten years ago, sicker than Philip Roth was last week.

So you can understand the size of the creative problems now facing Blood, the new "satire in poor taste" currently trying to make a go of it in Boston. At the moment, Blood's creators have not exactly solved these problems, but they have taken a healthy (or is it crippled?) step toward this end.

Regrettably, the first half-dozen of Blood's humorous black-out sketches do not give this impression. Bits about demonstrator-police confrontations or modern sex hangups stay abreast with our civilization rather than transcending it.

Yet just as everything looks deadly, writer John Eskow comes up with some creations that are grotesque enough to make it all worthwhile: an NBC memorial program on the assassination of "Miss America" host Bert Parks, an unmentionable comment on Jerry Lewis and muscular-distrophy charity campaigns, a hip black guy who insists on being referred to as "colored" and who hates James Brown, a television writer who dreams up the show "Clap City: the continuing story of a gonorrhea epidemic."

BESIDES material like this, Eskow and director Jarry Presko (an alumnus of Richard Scheckner's Dionysus in '69) have a cast that knows just how to kick someone in the groin.

Debby Eranke and Connie Wilkinson, Blood's girls, do very nicely with such characters as a dumb stewardess, Jesus' Jewish mother, and a middle-aged busybody who tells a blind man that "Helen Keller was a credit to your race." Nelson O'Brien glides through one of the truest David Susskind impressions ever--sanctimonious stupidity carried to the infinite degree.

And there is Scott Nye. Whether he is called upon to impersonate a transvestite Ozzie Nelson, an hysterical Ronald Reagan, or a sexually incompetent David Eisenhower, Mr. Nye always disposes of his chores with a wild sense of reality--a comic precision that tells us he has seen where we are heading and has puked his guts out at the spectacle. He never fails to lift any segment he appears in; writer Eskow has got to raise the whole entertainment up to the standard this comedian sets.

Of course, that is what the people at Blood are working on right now. They are cutting, sharpening and editing. Many of the sketches have good central jokes that never quite make it in the execution (such as an ambiguous Edward Albee parody), and others need to be thrown out entirely.

There is little spare money at Blood, which is located in a loft on what must be one of the most apocalyptically dark streets in the world. The playhouse is bare and chilly, but if Blood can get an audience to come in and warm the place up, it might yet develop its blossoming sickness into a grossly wonderful malignancy.

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