Because it won prizes at Canadian fringe festivals, I expected Clean Irene and Dirty Maxineto be an edgy example of experimental, counterculture theater. In fact, it's a cute, family entertainment. Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry, the talented two young women who created and play it, are likable and frisky. Except for their occasional, seemingly unmotivated exclamations of "Fuck me," they are unlikely to startle or upset anyone in the audience old enough to be toilet-trained.
With letters of the alphabet strung on a clothesline behind them (a common improvisational theater device), the two women start with Arty Marty and go on to Busy Lizzy, Clean Irene, Dirty Maxine, Efficient Millicent, etc., telling about various female types. They mug, pantomime, sing, dance, and carry on, but mostly recite childlike rhymes: "Firefighter Myra Miter / Shouldn't have lit her lighter / With Gassy Lassie in her bed / So now both of them are dead."
Well, maybe some parents wouldn't want their kids to hear fart jokes in the theater. A promotional note indicates that this is entertainment for adults.
There's not much bite or insight in their examples of familiar behavior, but they gleefully poke fun at Jittery Hillary's marital infidelity, Herbal Mabel's faith in vegetal healing, Kosher Raisel's religion-based follies, and the transient values of Trendy Wendy. One popular caprice gets ribbed near the end: "Yoga Lola was a vulture / Always stealing from other cultures."
They don't have a character for every letter: Raisel, for instance, has a daughter named "Little LMNO." But their intermission-less hour of good-natured funning has enough range and geniality to pass quickly.
Clean Irene & Dirty Maxine,written and performedby Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry, plays at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre Two, 172 West Main Street, from Thursday, October 2, to Sunday, October 12, on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. Tix: $9-$18. 325-4370, www.downstairscabaret.com.