Sketch & Solo Performances
Film & TV
The Jester Interviews
The Crazy River
Two new solo character showcases at UCB illustrate the ups and downs of
Ann Carr’s show at the UCB Theatre, “Use It,” seen February 12, she
takes aim at her own characters, set up as easy targets, and gets more
sympathy than laughter. By contrast, Dominic Dierkes, whose own solo
show, “Adventure River,” was paired with Carr’s, presented his own
clueless or hapless characters with a more sympathetic attitude toward
them in his performance, which got him a stronger audience response.
Carr’s character, Kate Rios, recurring a few times in her 25-minute
show, is a self-absorbed actress who wins an Oscar at the beginning of
the show, then forgets her husband’s name in the acceptance speech.
Later, Rios runs into Hannah, another character Carr plays separately in
another scene, a down-on-her-luck former college classmate, and blathers
on inconsiderately, which is just more uncomfortable to watch than
It gets even worse in the later scene where Carr plays Hannah, all
distraught after the encounter, reminding her of her lack of success, as
she embarrassingly breaks down crying in a Starbucks. In between these
interwoven characters, Carr also plays an equally clueless stage mom,
bringing in her son for an audition. The common thread in all of this,
making fun of self-absorbed show business people, is, as said before, is
such an easy target, that it really requires a sharper blade, aimed at
the situation rather than the people, than Carr has in her writing.
Dierkes, on the other hand, has a lighter touch and actually scores more
laughs by aiming a little lower, mixing in just a little surreal touch
to his characters. The title of his show (also about 25 minutes) refers
to its most inventive piece, where he plays an author of a “choose your
own adventure” type book, doing a reading, who seems to want the choices
to go only one way.
Similarly, as another character, an army captain trying to seem hip and
cool while giving a recruiting speech, Dierkes pulls out references more
likely to be made by a man in his 50s or 60s, such as Tony Curtis,
Dennis Franz and Drew Carey, thinking this will win his audience over.
It’s an inventive premise for a character, and Dierkes’ acting also
makes it both more sympathetic and funny.
Dierkes packs another couple characters into his show, equally well
rendered -- a recurring character of a lonely teen finding himself
without a dance partner at a junior high dance (later carried forward
just like an improv performer might), and a guy who wants to make a sex
tape with a green screen, overly concerned with sight lines and visual
effects. The success of Dierkes’ show is all in its creator’s
inventiveness -- the characters he’s written and performs are all
creations an audience will wish it thought of itself.
Carr will perform “Use It” again 8 p.m. Thursday, March 12, and Dierkes performs “Adventure River” again 8 p.m. Thursday, March 5,
both at the UCB Theatre.