With its cramped confines, neon tube lighting and overall low tech feel, the semi-antiquated Webster Fitness Club in Lincoln Park, a true mom-and-pop operation that is the antithesis to today’s five-star amenity and slick status-symbol gyms, is a spectacular setting—that no scenic designer could have topped in authenticity—for Sandbox Theatre Project’s site-specific comedy of perspiration, “Can You Spot Me?” This show, like a devoted gym bunny, has the right mix of looks, attitude and stamina. But when it comes to “SNL” sketch-like comedy there is a difference between cracking a smile and cracking a gut with laughter, and at its best this punkish and puerile farcical romp never manages to squeeze enough fun from its sweaty subject matter. Like its physical environment, the play’s sensibility feels pitched somewhere between the early 1980s and today, using a variety of gym caricatures to explore the cultural shift that saw affordable health clubs go from being the interactive “singles’ bars of the eighties” to exclusive gyms of the new millennium where anonymity reigns supreme and its “perfect” patrons are colder than the steel machines on which they work out. It’s all fun stuff, yet despite a handful of insightful comic one-liners and splendid moments, the writing is just not as strong as it could be, and one can notice the hard-working cast, breaking a sweat both literally and figuratively trying to sell this lightly amusing material, craving more than just Gatorade by the evening’s end: they want something to quench their artistic thirsts, too. Still, for all its artistic and technical imperfections (acoustics are horrible and a good chunk of the dialogue is inaudible), this audacious project proves that Sandbox Theatre has the vision, ensemble and wherewithal to hopefully make its next site-specific endeavor, be it within a bowling alley or a laundry mat, the success for which this company now seems well warmed-up. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Sandbox Theatre Project at Webster Fitness Club, 957 W. Webster, (773)456-2329. Sat & Sun 9pm. $15. Through June 25.