REVIEW: 'Out of Your Mind' at ComedySportz ★★★

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Eric Lindberg

Eric Lindberg (Eric Lindberg / August 26, 2014)

The show is touted as "improvised mentalism," and having seen it, I'm still not sure what that means exactly. Eric Lindberg (a ComedySportz ensemble member) is loose, unpretentious and quick with a halfway decent one-liner. So it's amusing and sometimes legitimately funny. But it's not clear what distinguishes improvised mentalism from regular old mentalism. Aren't all acts of mentalism at once improvised (in terms of audience interaction) and painstakingly preplanned?

The hat says hipster, the sport coat says business casual. Neither seems to fit Lindberg's personality. The look belies something unfinished in his stage persona. Who is he as a performer? Yet more unanswered questions, but the show won me over all the same. It's shaggy but charming. And the effects are legitimately good, which is ultimately all that matters in a show like this.

"A lot of this stuff just won't work," he says at the outset. Is he deliberately underselling his talents to amp up the drama? I don't know, but it does work.

Two brown lunch bags sit on a table. They could be empty or contain something within. "Do you want me to keep this bag or that bag?" he asks pointing from one to the other, and then immediately: "Don't answer yet!" His timing on that line is impeccable, and the effect is a good one: Lindberg slams his hand down on the bag selected by an audience member. It's empty; the remaining bag he opens to reveal shards of broken glass.

"Do I make you nervous?" he asks a volunteer. "Is it because of the sweat?" Maybe some in the audience are plants; maybe they're not. "I've been drinking for hours," one young woman announces, and it seems genuine — and genuinely funny.

The strongest argument for a show like this to be in residence at ComedySportz is an effect that plays around with jokes and punch lines. One envelope contains a punch line; others contain different setups. Only one setup fits with the punch line, which is sealed away until the very end. With the help of a volunteer who climbs on stage and randomly selects four envelopes (reading aloud each increasingly absurd entry), the final unopened envelope is indeed the punch line matched with the setup. The bit is not just mentalism — there is a real comedic point of view to it. More of that and the show would feel more organic to its venue.

Through Sept. 25 at ComedySportz, 929 W. Belmont Ave.; tickets are $10 at 773-549-8080 or outofyourmind.me

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