What is this, a salon des artistes?
In a manner of speaking, yes it is.
Prince Gomolvilas and Brandon Patton's "Jukebox Stories," which opened last weekend at Berkeley's Impact Theatre, takes a classic idea a meeting of artists who share their wares with a small, intimate group and gives it a modern spin.
In the dingy confines of La Val's Subterranean Theatre under a bustling pizza parlor, Gomolvilas and Patton hold forth in as relaxed and laid back a way as possible.
They say it's not a show so much as "hanging out," and they call intermission a "beer run." They don't emerge from backstage because they're too busy fraternizing with audience members.
The set, such as it is, resembles a dorm room or a bachelors' flop house. Posters on the wall depict a train wreck, Don Quixote, Abbott and Costello, a gangsta pirate and Maury Povich and Connie Chung.
Two sofas, assorted articles of clothing, pudding cups, liquor bottles and Chinese food complete the picture of macho squalor.
The two-hour show, directed by Kent Nicholson, whose aim seems to have been to remove any trace of direction, alternates songs by Patton and stories by Gomolvilas, some of which are selected at random by audience members.
To further intensify the audience-performer connection, Gomolvilas and Patton have devised "Prince and Brandon's Totally Rad Low-Stakes Arbitrary Audience Participation Gimmick Bingo.
We all receive bingo cards filled with song and story titles. With each selection performed, we're invited to cross off the corresponding square on our cards until one lucky audience member has bingo and receives a prize (one of Patton's CDs on opening night).
We keep playing for second and third place. Those fortunate few received a pudding cup and a blank CD-ROM plucked at random from the mess of the set.
That's the kind of evening this is: fun, fresh and decidedly untheatrical.
The material, as you might guess, is a mixed lot some pieces more impressive than others but never less than enjoyable.
On opening night, Gomolvilas' talked about his little sister's breast enhancement surgery and subsequent employment at Hooters.
His best stories are the most personal, like the tale of finding sizes to fit his small frame at Hot Topic, which leads into his battle with corporate America. Another good one, called "Guilty as Hell," details his mother's masterful use of guilt as a primary parenting tool.
Patton's songs are of the funny, folky variety with splashes of John Mayer and Ben Folds. As he accompanies himself on guitar (with Gomolvilas occasionally joining in on kazoo), he sings of his stint as a volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival and his "mixed-up modern family."
As a lyricist, Patton offers some real gems. "I feel as sexy as two kids at a drive-in parked next to a cop" is a good one, as is, "Please don't put your cigarette out on your shoe because it burns your sole."
"Jukebox Stories" is a sturdy piece of post-modern cabaret, and Gomolvilas and Patton nicely fill their roles as hip, urban troubadours.
- There's more: Download Gomolvilas' stories "Guilty as Hell" and "Dark Nights of the Soul Suck," and Patton's songs "Military School" and "Mo Song" at http://www.impacttheatre.com.
You can e-mail Chad Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925)416-4853.