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House of Tards

Seventy minutes of unrelentingly sarcastic and unrewarding contemporary sketch comedy superficially performed by three smug Downtown notables.

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The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) in a scene from “House of Tards” (Photo credit: Stephen Elledge)

The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) in a scene from “House of Tards” (Photo credit: Stephen Elledge)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

“Kale American,” a satirical take off of sung to the tune David Bowie’s song, “Young Americans,” is the finale to House of Tards, an unrelentingly sarcastic and unrewarding sketch comedy show.  With references to Whole Foods, Pinkberry, gluten-free, and faddish eating habits, it’s representative of the show’s previous 60 minutes.

A trio of smug Downtown notables, Mike Albo, Nora Burns, and David Ilku, collectively billed as “Unitard,” wrote and perform it.  All have numerous performance credits, have distinguished themselves in various cultural outlets, and possess the technical capabilities for singing and comedic performance.  Here, they strive for and succeed at superficial, ironical posturing.  They perform together and also solo in the show’s sketches.

The humor of these arch vignettes is often scatological, vulgar, and heavy-handed.  Nothing is really offensive or really in bad taste, just childish.  After all, the title is a pun on House of Cards.

Selfies, Kickstarter, The Highline, Twitter, Republicans, The Ice Bucket Challenge, Instagram, Banksy, Uber, Cronuts, Phillip Glass and Marina Abramović, are among their topical fodder.

“What happened to the Downtown scene?”  “It’s over there under that ATM,” is an exchange from the opening sequence where the three performers are dressed up like 1950’s Beatniks.  Wearing sunglasses, black pants, black and white striped shirts, berets, miming smoking cigarettes, they lament New York City’s cultural decline.  “Lena Dunham took our jobs” is another witticism.

”I’ve done so many beheadings–I’m up to HERE with beheadings!”  Followed by the sound of a rim shot is from the ISIL compound’s Jihad Comedy Jam.  It’s a stand-up comedy set performed in a military masked costume, accessorized with ammunition.

The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) now appearing “House of Tards” (Photo credit: Tom Ackerman)

The comedy trio Unitard (David Ilku, Mike Albo and Nora Burns) now appearing “House of Tards” (Photo credit: Tom Ackerman)

There are sketches skewering people’s excesses on Facebook and Grindr.  Of course there’s one set in a Starbucks, with hyperbolic coffee orders by L.A. show business types.  There’s a vapid megarich society woman in a private café. Karl Lagerfeld appears and is attacked by his celebrity cat.  A heroin addict going through the audience while shooting up has a reality television show.

The three appear all in black holding umbrellas and with deadpan exaggeration, mourning the deaths of Elaine Stritch, Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy and Joan Rivers.

A straight married couple boasts about their gay tolerance while pulling at their silent gay best friend who is dressed in a white body suit adorned with a rainbow. 

Director Paul Dobie’s staging gives the show a fast pace and well utilizes the small playing area, which is the upstairs cabaret theater of The Stonewall Inn, the historic gay bar on Christopher Street, where it is performed once a week on Thursday nights.  It premiered there in October 2014 and ran through December 2014.  It has returned to New York following engagements in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

There is obviously an appreciative audience for House of Tards, and at the performance attended many were roaring with laughter.  Those who share the sensibilities of “Unitard,” and who also possibly consume a few of the drinks that are sold at the show, will have a great time.

“For those who like that sort of thing,” said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, “That is the sort of thing they like.”  (Muriel Spark in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.)

House of Tards (Thursdays, extended through May 28, 2015)

The Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street, east of Seventh Ave. So., in Greenwich Village

For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit http://www.unitardcomedy.com

Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (802 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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