October 15, 2006



By Jim Crogan

Deck the halls with boughs of folly, frustration, chicanery, and a healthy dose of ribald gallows humor. The show’s unnamed Chicago cabbie (Bob Rusch on Sunday nights in this split cast) may be weighed down by the Christmas blues, feeling powerless to impact his surroundings and haunted by the notion he’s trapped in hell and driving for Satan, but Hellcab is a slice of heaven for the audience. You know you’re watching a good show when you don’t notice the clock. And this is one great show. Director Eric Johnson’s pacing is strictly pedal-to-the-metal. And writer Will Kern demonstrates a tremendous ear and deft feel for realistic dialogue that is spoken by a host of different characters.

Rusch has the look, feel, and attitude of a real-life cabbie who must navigate the human flotsam he encounters and still retain a sliver of humanity toward even the most whacked-out of fares. The rest of the Sunday night cast is also first-rate, as it jumps from one character to another, no two the same. Chuck Raucci, who plays very smarmy, very creepy people, is a hoot as the frazzled coke freak trying to score. Benton Jennings and K.J. Middlebrooks show tremendous range as they move in and out of the cab, alternating among characters that are weird, threatening, buffoonish, or Middle America. Diane Sellers is top-notch as a pregnant woman about to have a breakdown and a baby. Catherine Davis Cox is fine as a sexy contracts lawyer who makes a play for her driver. And Broocks Willich deftly switches among an uptight Brit, a drugged-up street person, a safe and sane receptionist whom the cabbie reaches out to, and a down-and-dirty local gal who takes no shit and makes no apologies for how she lives her life.

All rolls out on a very small stage. Cox doubles as set designer with James Sharpe; they deserve kudos for constructing a nifty set using only the front of a cab and a backdrop photo of Chi-town in winter. It’s not your usual Christmas fare, but it’s well worth a look.

Presented SkyPilot Theatre Company at the Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Suite D, Burbank. Sun. 7 p.m., Mon. 8 p.m. Oct. 15-Dec. 11. (323) 960-4418.