Review: Non-Grammatical, But Hilarious — Stacey Hallal’s “Irregardless” at the CoHo Theatre 1

Stacey Hallal in her own “Irregardless,” at the CoHo Theatre.The Comedy scene is not known for its whole-hearted acceptance and encouragement of the female gender in its ranks, it still often suffers from a stifling “old boys club” feel that oft claims the right for anti-women material in the name of “free speech” — take the recent rape joke gaff made by Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh and the accompanying backlash.

Yeah. Not too female-friendly at all. And not surprisingly, women in comedy, be it trail blazers like Joan Rivers or modern comedy queens like Tina Fey or Amy Poehler, often have to work much harder to gain the same acceptance, let alone pay, as their male counterparts.

Thank goodness Portland’s Comedy scene has several really great women who are nuturing their own in this scene, including an all female comedy fest coming here in September, aptly named, “All Jane, No Dick.”

It’s an uphill fight, to be sure, for women, but we do have local contenders who can dish out the comic punches with the best and then some — and to extend the metaphor perhaps a bit further, a delight to watch in this arena is our own local Stacey Hallal, now in her new one-woman show at the CoHo Theatre, “Irregardless.” And prepared for the fight she appears to be, as the photos of her in the boxing ring for this production would indicate.

Hallal has taken her knocks as a seasoned veteran of comedy and improv, trained at places like Chicago’s Second City, is now the artistic director at Portland’s Curious Comedy Theater, as well as being the curator of the upcoming “All Jane, No Dick” event.

And yes, Hallal is well aware of the grammatical error in the title, in fact it is one of the fights she as an educated person bemoans — that this traditional malapropism has now even been accepted into dictionaries, no less, out of simple continued use. Gender issues are not the only sparring she is prepared to take on, though that is in there too, as when a male fan attempts to compliment her on her “slutty material.” Hallal realizes in his mind, “…a woman who loves sex is a slut, where I think a woman who loves sex is over 30.”

Hallal’s charisma stems from a rather cheery and buoyant positive attitude while decrying many of life’s inequities, gender or otherwise, and its just plain silliness. Her style often recalls other comic women greats, like SNL’s Molly Shannon, but definitely making her own mark. The brisk 60 minute show gives round after round of her stand-up observations, sketches both live and in video bits (though some of the video parts fall a bit flat compared to her vivaciousness live), and engaging characterizations. The piece doesn’t really have an overall story or emotional arc, but flits from one of Hallal’s stand-up stories or characters to another. No matter, there are plenty of moments of hilarity to please, and even some touching realizations.

Audiences will be tickled by characterizations of a would-be hip-hop dancer, trying to follow an instructional video yet not coming off very gangstah at all; the decision over which “tramp stamp” tattoo to get that male lovers will eventually gaze upon (“Baby On Board”); a rather exasperated and street re-telling of the Moses story — along with the simple three-point epiphany she has in her own spiritual search; a bomb squad love affair; a rather earnest, “Portlandia”-style female folk singer trying to lighten her act with ironically bad women jokes and corny sound effects; the ultimate nightmare party “cougar” woman who gets sociopathic crazy with a young waiter when tipsy; and, a deliciously evil motif of not wanting her own kids, but to take someone else’s. The evening culminates in a wonderfully played silent movie montage of being “in the present” with all her characters and emotions.

And it looks like Hallal’s comic pugilist career is on the upswing — after finishing the title bouts… err, we mean run here at her home base in Portland, she’ll be taking the show up to Canada for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival from July 18th through the 28th. Perhaps her character will have that hip-hop coffee grinder move down by then as a knock-out punch.

So Portlanders best catch this show while they can, before Hallal becomes the world-wide golden glove champion: Friday and Saturday are the last two nights it’ll be seen at the CoHo Theatre! Get in there and mix it up while you can!

CoHo Productions presents Irregardless, Written & Perfromed by Stacey Hallal, Directed by Rebecca Lingafelter. Technical Direction by Casey Jones, Video Sketches directed by Brett Roberts, Choreography by Stephanie Seaman, Corinn DeWaard and Trip The Dark Dancy Company. Video Sketch Actors: Gabe Dinger, Ale Kolleeny, Leon Anderson, Stephanie Seaman and Corinn DeWaard. Additional Audio Actor for “Insomnia Self-Hypnosis”: Josh Stenseth. Plays at the CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh Street, Portland, OR 97210. Runs July 5th through 14th. Tickets are $10, through the Boxofficetickets.com Web Site, or call CoHo at: (503) 220-CoHo (2646) or (503) 205-0715, or e-mail: scott@cohoproductions.org.