Shadowbox Live has had a series of triumphs over the past few months.

  A Tribute to Joe Cocker: Mad Dog and Englishman was a joyous celebration of the iconic performer. The recently concluded Sex at the Box was the funniest theme show the troupe has offered in years.

  And though I haven’t seen Shadowbox’s current staging of American Idiot, various critics have hailed the production even as they acknowledged the limitations of the musical itself.

  But you can’t crank out as many shows as Shadowbox does without the occasional stumble. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Reckless.  

  I’ll start by accentuating the positive. The cover songs are good, as usual, though I wish so many of them didn’t share an angry, screaming personality. Sure, that fits in with the show’s theme, but how about a little variety?

  Some of the numbers stand out for their raw power and/or flashy production: Halestorm’s “I Miss the Misery,” sung by Nikki Fagin and backup warblers Leah Haviland and Noelle Grandison while dramatic lighting accentuates their crimson locks; Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch,” with Gabriel Guyer belting out the R-rated lyrics; Linkin Park’s “Runaway,” with Haviland delivering the lead vocals from behind a chain-link fence.

  Also worthy of note are a couple of classic tunes that benefit from accompanying dramatizations: the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane,” sung by Julie Klein while indulgent “partygoers” snort coke; and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” sung by Stev Guyer as a homeless veteran while images from the Vietnam War appear on the video screen behind him.

  But it’s not until the very end, when Brandon Anderson and Grandison take on the popular “Uptown Funk,” that the show offers a more playful interpretation of recklessness.

  Unfortunately, this fun finale isn’t enough to erase the bad taste left in viewers’ mouths from the show’s so-so attempts at comedy.

  One of the few worthwhile skits is Job App, starring Robbie Nance as a man looking for employment and Nikki Fagin as an interviewer who keeps dredging up embarrassing details from his life on social media. It’s not consistently hilarious, but it does boast the night’s best punchline.

  Two skits benefit from Klein’s always-enjoyable portrayal of an eccentric adolescent: Vinnie’s Playhouse, in which she plays an audience member in a TV show with a gangster-like host (Jimmy Mak); and Rock a Bye Baby, which co-stars Katy Psenicka as a mother trying to lead her daughter to dreamland by reading poems and fairy tales. The latter’s witty joke is that Klein’s “Suzie” is perversely excited by the mayhem that befalls Humpty Dumpty and other familiar characters, but the piece undercuts itself with a punchline straight out of left field.   

  These and other skits fit into the middle ground of being just sort of funny. They include Rebel Without a Clue, in which two high school guidance counselors try to convince a student to be as rebellious as they were in their younger years; and Pulled Over, a comment on a recent controversial police shootings. A little honing might improve them over time.

  But some sketches are hopelessly flawed. That includes several that are just long enough to inspire a single response, which is generally “Huh?”

  Much longer, but just as hopeless, is the final sketch, The Flessel Scandal. It’s about a presidential candidate (Robbie Nance) who denies one damaging rumor after another, only to see them proved true by the media and his opponent (Psenicka).

  This is clearly meant to be a satire on politics and society in general, but it’s too removed from reality to hit its targets. For one thing, both candidates blithely drop public F-bombs before it’s over. When’s the last time you saw that happen?

  But, then, the whole show is laden with linguistic explosives, which demonstrates just how desperate Shadowbox is to wring laughs from the flawed material. An F-bomb, after all, is always good for a few reflexive chuckles.

  Yes, Shadowbox has had lots of recent successes, but you can’t expect anyone to hit a home run every time at bat. Consider this show a bunt.

  Reckless will be presented through May 23 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $20-$40. Contact: 614-416-7625 or

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