Amalia, the woman with no arms and no legs, sits on her pedestal day in, day out, quietly doing Kegels under the shroud of her dress. Judith, the dog-faced girl, mumbling through her cleft lip, brushes her blond curls. In his cage, the Pinhead sings to himself. On the other side of the tent, Aquaboy, the Human Salamander, splashes in his fetid tank, burbling through the gills he grew to fit his patter. Ruling over the motley crew is Mr. Flip, a half-deranged Machiavellian entrepreneur whose deformities are all of the mental sort.

Freakshow, the final production of Theatre Vertigo's season, is occasionally titillating but difficult to enjoy. Playwright Carson Kreitzer delivers plenty of the promised freakishness with the misshapen characters—brought to life by Vertigo's able design team—and the contorted logic Mr. Flip employs to justify his business. But despite the oddities on display, this show just isn't very entertaining.

The action, such as there is, occurs in very short bursts interspersed with long monologues. Amalia (Amy Newman) speaks mostly of her surprisingly active sex life and the boredom of sitting around all day. Judith (Heather Rose Walters), who is starting to get on in years, speaks of her youth, part of which she spent locked up in Mr. Flip's basement with only a dog as her companion. Aquaboy (Mario Calcagno) wants love, but doesn't want to leave his tank. Mr. Flip (Garland Lyons) just wants to make a living. Their concerns are perfectly mundane, though all are tinged with cruelty.

Yes, two romances are broken and one kindled, one man is assaulted and another fired, but the plot takes a back seat to the long-winded chatting. And while this is interesting for a while, one gets the impression Kreitzer wrote the play as a one-act that required a lot of filler for it to bulk up to an evening-length work. There's not much going on here, and the wistful tone of Tom Moorman's direction doesn't hide the holes. When the quiet, fiery finale comes, suddenly and from nowhere, it feels unearned. With the exception of immobile Amalia, it's difficult to feel much sympathy for characters who have no apparent pressing desires.


Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., 306-0870. 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 5:30 pm Sunday, April 26. Closes May 16. $15.