News Column

Jim Pettibone presents 17 'Random Acts'

May 7, 2013

YellowBrix

May 07--COTUIT -- Actor Jim Pettibone might want to consider adjusting the name of his one-man show.

Perhaps "Random Acts of Storytelling"? Or "Random Characters"?

Whatever the reference is to the popular "kindness" phrase, and whatever the strict definition of "comedy" is in a theatrical setting, the title of "Random Acts of Comedy" sets up some expectations of, well, a comedy act. And the one-hour show at Cotuit Center for the Arts' intimate, 25-seat Black Box Theater is far from nightclub stand-up. So it would be too bad if theatergoers discounted the show on that perception if they'd like the show's skit-and-song style better.

What Pettibone, an acting teacher at the center, presents is a collection of 17 short monologues and songs that he's written and put together -- as he announces at the start -- with no particular theme. A thin man dressed in dark pants and a plaid shirt, he projects a warm stage presence, and this is a show of gentle, largely situational humor with no foul language or objectionable material. His stories and songs elicit smiles and some chuckles, but there are no laugh-out-loud one-liners here.

Instead, Pettibone morphs from character to character, changing accents as easily as he would a coat, creating brief stories or commentary in just a few minutes. There is the Brooklyn tattoo artist describing clients to his bartender; the talkative British man on a commuter train; the nerdy valedictorian from a class at the Northeast Small Appliance Repair Institute; the Southerner explaining just what a gentleman is.

In between, Pettibone picks up his guitar and spins some amusing characters with music, including a single guy, who doesn't cook, describing his eating habits and a bitter teen who wants the worst for the girl who just dumped him.

The subjects of Pettibone's humor are often familiar targets: a skit comparing programming on a Boston PBS station to one in Maine pokes at both elitist and hick, for example, and a song about Harvard Square pulls up a litany of descriptions of politically correct Cambridge hippiedom.

The skits and songs are largely successful, with only a few falling short.

A program note says there will be "no magic," "no puppets" and "no circus skills" but simply "a fair amount of talking plus some singing." That's probably too long for Pettibone to use as a new title, but it's about as apt a description of this feel-good show as you could ask for.

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(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)

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