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'Zings' takes potshots

You can usually judge the quality of a theatrical production by the number of exclamation marks in its title. A good rule is to subtract one star for each point.

By that measure, O'Connell and Company's "Buffalo Zings! In 3D!!!" should be a total dud. And though this production clocks in at almost three hours, sustains a sky-high level of tedium and is performed by a cast that looks to have received the script and score - such as they are - 20 minutes before show time, not all is lost.

Tucked into this undercooked casserole of Buffalo-tinged political spoofs and musical comedy are five or six truly riotous sketches and songs skewering the likes of the Cellino & Barnes legal team to the sorry WGRZ program "Today in Western New York."

And, of course, there's that kooky cast of characters from the previous two versions of Western New York's favorite (and by favorite, I mean only) yearly theatrical farce: the vampiric County Executive Joel Giambra (David Butler), the overly cheery and slightly menacing Nancy Naples, the perfectly coiffed Mayor Byron Brown, the cantankerous Jimmy Griffin, and so forth.

In general, the jokes are as easy as the targets they lampoon, but here are some of the standouts:

*A recurring sketch with Mary Moebius, Sheila Connors and Dan Schroeder features the singing church group "Skeeter, Saul and Carrie" and targets desperate measures from area churches to stay alive in the face of widespread closings. In some well constructed but barely intelligible songs, the group heralds the inauguration of St. McAgnes church (a sponsorship between St. Agnes and McDonald's) and the conversion of St. Bernadette's into a casino ("We put our land in the hand of the man who builds casinos.").

*Another recurring bit has WGRZ's red-jacketed team of Mary Friona and Kevin O'Neill "getting to the bottom" of issues such as Griffin's failed candidacy in the county executive race and the existence of "The Phantom of the Aud Club" in Buffalo's abandoned Memorial Auditorium. The skits themselves fall pretty flat, but the dramatic sound and devilish red lighting that introduces the team and the repetition of "2, on your side" is a dead-on skewering of WGRZ's overthe- top production effects.

*Guy Tomassi and David Butler (who also does a great job as Giambra in full vampire garb) perform a parody of a Captain and Tennille classic called "Law Will Keep Us Together." This may well be the highlight.

*In a rare extension to national politics, Tomassi plays disgraced Sen. Larry Craig in some bathroom-tinged humor that includes a hilarious rendition of the "Hokey Pokey."

*Honorable mention goes also to Mary Kate O'Connell as an alcoholic Mary Poppins lamenting how Buffalo's "stupid mal-administration expedites the closures" and Leon Michael Hicks as Byron Brown in a James Brown-inspired song: "No plan, but hot damn, I look good."

It's clear the performers are having fun, which elevates the eye-rolling humor a tad, but it's not quite enough to raise "Zings" from spoof to satire.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com