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Sensible Footwear steps lightly

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Sensible Footwear steps lightly




Is it necessary to have female genitalia to enjoy a Sensible Footwear show?

The answer is obviously no and the question rhetorical. Yet the query was startling enough to instantly grab the attention of Sensible Footwear’s audience Thursday nght at Performance Network.

Score one for British “comedic terrorists” Allison Field, Wendy Vousden and Alex Dallas, who proceeded to briefly take this critic to task for comments offered in a review last October. (Better hated than ignored, I say)

Ironically, my problem with Sensible Footwear was largely reversed this time around. Three months ago I praised this dynamic trio’s precision-drill stagecraft, while confessing I was turned off by their rapier observations on the human condition. The threesome’s song-and-word torrent of sexual cynicism seemed less a diatribe against men than against sex -and in the process, against life itself.

Yet the current show finds Footwear’s bilious message muted. To be sure, there’s commentary on items ranging from masturbation to condoms to breasts and breast pumps; to the mortification of finding oneself in a sexual encounter while clad in dirty underwear.

Yet if Field, Vousden and Dallas remain carnal cynics, this time a relieving good humor softens the venom. The women remain masters of comic timing: “I’ve never had sex with a third person in the room.” (Pause.) “I’ve seldom had sex with a second person in the room.” Vousden on the tendency of zoo animals to gratify themselves often: “Animals do it because they’re bored.” (Long pause).

Several riffs had me laughing out loud. Field frets over erotic dreams involving friends: The next day, she confides, “it’s as though they know.” And sex is far from Footwear’s sole obsession: They also do takeoffs on topics from child care to Oprah Winfrey to lousy English weather to Britain itself: “It’s hard to live somewhere where the past is more important than the future.”

I only wish there’d been more offerings so insightful and ruefully funny. Voicing less venom, Footwear paradoxically seemed less crisp and snappy in performance. (Perhaps they can’t have one without the other?) And tired targets such as Barbie and Ken dolls or men who leave toilet seats up are hardly worthy of this group’s lances.

At least this wasn’t a show that had me longing to bolt from the theater. Perhaps grade-B Footwear makes an easier, friendlier fit than the stiletto-toed grade-A of three months back. If so, it’s a relieving backslide.

Sensible Footwear performs tonight through Sunday and Jan. 27039 at Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St. Showtime is 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 663-0681.