1:15 PM EDT, August 26, 2014
"Let's not be that couple!" Josh Lanzet remembers a girlfriend saying as she got in her car and he was shouting "I love yous" out of the window of his house. Relationships and their strange idiosyncrasies were on tap in Lanzet's previous show earlier this year (the charming "Dating: Adults Embracing Failure"), and he returns to the theme again in this autobiographical one-man endeavor that scrolls through his various romantic mishaps.
John Cusack carried an entire movie ("High Fidelity") on this kind of stuff, and it can work if it's handled with the right approach, the best of which is a tale of a short-lived relationship that involved food as foreplay. It has all the stranger-than-fiction signposts of a bona fide anecdote, wherein Lanzet is comically game (and then not) about his partner's kink of choice.
But under Natalie Shipman's direction, the bulk of the material tends to feel a bit too cute. Each chapter is tidy and pat and ends on a button, leaving you curious about Lanzet's rougher, less eager-to-please edges. Then, late in the show, he talks about the recent death of his father. Well, that is indeed rough. But there's no arc that prepares you for it. It's just there, this grief that is very real but not quite meant for this type of show.
Lanzet has a lot going for him as a performer, and what makes any of it work is his agreeably self-deprecating way of stepping outside a story and commenting on it with cringelike micro-expressions. He's aware just how navel-gazing much of this is. That in itself goes a long way.
Through Thursday at The Playground, 3209 N. Halsted St.; tickets are $10 at joshlanzet.com
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