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Theater Review: Lagunatics' poke is gentle

January 27, 2014|By Michael Miller

A few months ago on Netflix, I rewatched a group of "Saturday Night Live" episodes from two decades back. It was an odd experience. The jokes were still cleverly constructed, but with Dan Quayle's tongue slips and Bill Clinton's scandals now distant memories, I found myself nodding with recognition rather than laughing out loud.

"Satire," playwright George S. Kaufman famously said, "is what closes on Saturday night."

Lagunatics, the annual song and dance revue parodying life around Laguna Beach, faced this quandary when its 2013 show "Gagtime," originally slated for October, got pushed back to January because of a mold problem at the Forum Theater. At least two numbers portrayed issues that had changed or passed by the introduction of the new year, and even the others had three more months of distance from their original inspiration.

Maybe it was inevitable, then, that the moment when I laughed hardest Saturday night (Saturday night, how about that?) came when Bill Harris, who played a radio announcer at various points throughout the show, told the audience that he had "just lost my last job as life coach for Justin Bieber."

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Considering how many times Bieber has hit the scandal sheet lately, that line could have been in the October script, but it felt contemporary even if it wasn't.

With moments like that few and far between, the show had the easy feel of camaraderie. The performers and audience may have known that some of the material was past its sell-by date, but the lack of timeliness left more time to focus on craft and energy. In that regard, the 21st annual Lagunatics revue delivered the goods — especially for Laguna residents, who might have chuckled at the in-jokes the way any of us might at a high school reunion speech.

OK, then, what might a stranger have learned from watching "Gagtime"? Well, for one thing, Lagunans are really, really wealthy (that came up more than once). They value their ocean views (one sketch featured a public hearing with residents, among them a chainsaw-wielding woman, debating the aesthetic value of trees). They sometimes have trouble finding a parking space in the tourist season but, with a major museum and theater a block or two from the beach, have a way of putting their woes in perspective.

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