It’s significant that “Park and Lake” was created by a collective — the writing is credited to “the cast with Kira Obolensky” — especially since Ten Thousand Things’ comedy is about the possibility of collective ownership.
Set at a carwash that may or may not be the actual carwash located at Lake Street and Park Avenue in south Minneapolis, “Park and Lake” begins with owner Manny (Eric “Pogi” Sumangil) opening up the business and planting in our minds the idea that something nefarious is happening.
Turns out the carwash is about to be sold, likely stranding the employees who drift in and out of the play, gossiping and getting involved in capers that rarely bring them anywhere near soaping up a bumper. But maybe they can do something to head off the sale?
The characters were developed by the cast members (and a few actors who aren’t in the production), and several are gems. Kimberly Richardson is aces as Jack, an innocent who works at the carwash, and Tia Penucci, a mannered screen legend who may be a sly nod to the lyric of the 1976 Rose Royce song “Car Wash”: “You never know who you might meet, a movie star or an Indian chief.”
Luverne Seifert is a hoot as a waywardly accented (Irish? Minnesota by way of “Fargo”?) employee named Selby Dale, who is more dedicated to caring for his colleagues’ souls than he is to polishing chrome. George Keller’s wicked performance as the selfish mother of one of the carwashers is brief but indelible.
And, although he’s not technically in the show, actor/musician/wizard Theo Langason contributes enormously, performing a live score, sound effects and precision voice-overs.
All of the actors, who also include H. Adam Harris, Stephen Cartmell and Thomasina Petrus, make sharp contributions, but the pieces of this puzzle don’t quite come together.
The physical humor of “Park and Lake” kept reminding me of “The Carol Burnett Show.” (Richardson would be the Tim Conway of the company.) It often feels more like a collection of sketches — some winners, some not so much — than a completely satisfying theatrical experience.
The impulse for “Park and Lake” feels exactly right; on opening night, co-director Michelle Hensley told the sold-out house, which included an attentive service dog, that “we’re all needing to laugh now.” I bet even the impeccably behaved pooch would agree.
It’s just that this carwash comedy could do with a bit more polishing.