The title of Shadowbox Live’s latest sex-and-relationship show—Foreplay—reminds me of a comment I made about one of its predecessors. In a long-ago review, I said watching it was like experiencing really bad foreplay that miraculously led to really good sex. You can’t make a comment like that these days, as Shadowbox no longer puts on theme shows that ricochet between really bad and really good. True, they may have segments that are kind of weak or bland, but the directors, writers and performers have honed their ability to keep the audience interested until the good stuff starts. The upshot is that at the end of Foreplay, I felt like I’d seen a basically decent show. But I also realized that only a few of the skits had really stood out—far fewer than in the last two versions of Shadowbox’s annual sex-and-relationship show. Coincidentally or not, two of this year’s top skits feature veteran performers Tom Cardinal and Stacie Boord. One of them is Cold Feet, in which they play a couple whose decision to renew their vows after 20 years of marriage raises unexpected fears about whether they’re ready for this kind of commitment. And in the night’s real gem, How to Sexually Arouse Me, Cardinal sits patiently while Boord treats the audience to a PowerPoint presentation on the do’s and don’ts of putting her in a romantic mood. Though Boord has most of the lines, much of the comedy comes from watching Cardinal’s reactions to her talk—and from anticipating what he’ll say when it’s finally his turn to speak. One skit that manages to be fairly funny is Picking Up Is Hard to Do, as it comes up with a fresh take on a familiar topic. In it, Eddie (Brandon Anderson) advises Brett (David Whitehouse) that just being himself is no way to attract women. Instead, Eddie tries aping celebrities ranging from David Lee Roth to Woody Allen, with undesired results. The final skit, The Penis Mightier, has the dual distinction of boasting the most ingenious premise and the most elaborate prop. It features Whitehouse as an accident victim who wakes up to learn an eccentric professor (JT Walker III) has replaced his damaged “junk” with a huge bionic substitute that has the unique ability to ferret out “sluts.” A few snickering laughs result, but the piece would be funnier if it didn’t rely, like much of the show, on juvenile attitudes toward this most adult of topics. In general, the musical portions of the evening seem fresher than the comedy, largely because they deviate from the usual collection of thunderous rock anthems. Standout numbers and their lead vocalists include Sunday Morning (Edelyn Parker), We’ll Be Together (Cardinal), Father Figure (Walker) and Candy Perfume Girl (Leah Haviland). Wrapping up the musical offerings in melodic fashion are Sweetest Taboo, featuring a very Sade-like Nikki Fagin, and You Can Leave Your Hat On, featuring a very Stev Guyer-like Stev Guyer. Kudos to the BillWho? house band for backing up all the singers with a combination of subtlety, technique and joyful exploration—qualities that are particularly welcome in a show called Foreplay. Foreplay will be presented through March 22 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Running time: 2 hours (including intermission). Tickets are $20-$40. 614-416-7625 or

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