Let’s get it out of the way right now: The Success Show succeeds. But then, staging a send-up of a business motivational seminar offers a wealth of material to choose from, and writer/director Michael Comstock does an 80/20 job of making it pay off.
It helps that he has two great comic talents to deliver the goods. George Alexander plays the ex-Jiffy Pop sales executive, Denny Martin, who has hit the road as a self-styled get-ahead guru, and Randy Lee Bailey, does much more than support as his man Friday, Arnie Laughlin.
Comstock and team understand the territory well, and the show is full of silly maxims and mantras that sound almost like the actual affirmations you’d expect from Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and the rest that make their millions telling you how to make your millions.
The two success mentors have set up shop in the Dayton Airport Holiday Inn, where they offer a free sample seminar, hoping to get the audience to sign up for more expensive workshops after hearing their “4 for Success Levers.” Nothing goes according to plan: a wedding in the neighboring banquet room competes for the electrical supply, Laughlin seems to have forgotten to have most of the free materials printed, and other unexpected “challenges” put Martin’s principles to the test.
Special mention should be made of the one performance that really gets most of the best lines: the PowerPoint presentation, which hilariously provides a steady parade of ridiculous slides filled with hyperbolic bullet points and laughable graphics, all demonstrating the key elements of “successulation” and the other pseudo-concepts in the wannabe winner’s toolbox.
Yes, the show is essentially an extended comedy sketch. But the fact that it generates so much on-the-money satire for the greater part of an hour is a minor triumph. Still, in its final minutes, The Success Show, like the current financial recession, slopes sharply towards a sudden letdown. But also like the recession, you’ve got to admit that everything that came before it was pretty darn good ride.
Performed at Art Academy of Cincinnati through June 5. See performance dates and preview here.