Smoke gets in your eyes—OK, maybe not smoke precisely, but a faceful of glycol solution, atomized in mineral oil and pumped into the Brick Theater. You’re Welcome: A Cycle of Bad Plays by the Debate Society promises five intentionally awful dramas. The fourth of them crowds 10 playlets under the umbrella title We Got a Fog Machine, mini masterworks that include What a Scary Cemetery!, Is That Sharks in That Smoldering Moat?!, and Little Cat Feet. Luckily for audience lungs, that fog machine works only intermittently. You’re Welcome, by contrast, works quite well.
In previous pieces, such as The Eaten Heart and Cape Disappointment, the Debate Society has established itself as an intelligent and innovative company, though self-consciously cute. Their work too often substitutes the ironical for the visceral, but that clever-cleverness only heightens this silly cycle. Director Oliver Butler, actor Michael Cyril Creighton, and writer-performers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen send up melodrama, farce, naturalistic maunderings, impossible-to-stage director’s theater, and the sort of educational plays that tour high schools. That last is an anti-drunk-driving piece (are there any pro-drunk-driving pieces?) entitled A Thought About Ryan, which includes the stilted line, “He gave in to the worst drug of all: peer pressure.”
Well, me too. Surrounded by so many rows of friends and well-wishers, even a critic more curmudgeonly than I would applaud these cheerful absurdities. Not all the sections amuse equally, but the goofy enthusiasm of the troupe is contagious. Bos, with her outsize verve and hair, delights particularly. When the fog machine does roar to life, its choking secretions only enhance the inanity. This time, there’s no arguing with the Debate Society.