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A Leg of the Marathon

UCB house team Fwand makes an impression in event honoring guru Del Close.

A smaller sampling of this year’s Del Close Improv Marathon, in its ninth edition, found one of the younger UCB house teams, “fwand” (rhymes with ‘pond’) coming up with a stronger performance than some of the theater’s own veterans did at times.

This year, the UCB’s original four members, Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, in their customary late afternoon Saturday time slot in the marathon, presented a loose performance that only occasionally deigned to get into actual improvised scenes. Instead they pinballed between taking audience questions and a shaggy dog story about how the group members originally met, full of intentional anachronisms, that the four kept returning to.

Roberts dominated this set, spinning a yarn about how a good sidewalk is the most important thing for a theater and how they made sure of that when starting their theater in New York. Offhandedly, he mentioned checking out the paving while enjoying a Slurpee and a cigar -- an amusing odd pairing.

Also seen Saturday evening were an edition of Let’s Have A Ball (reviewed 3/3/07), this time including Rebecca Drysdale, Rob Riggle and Colbert Report writer Peter Gwinn. These experienced hands kept a good road trip scene going awhile. They were followed by Omelette Vision, a version of former UCB house team The Swarm, featuring Michael Delaney and Billy Merritt, presenting a more subdued version of that duo’s onstage rivalry -- Delaney and Merritt often revel in trying to trip each other up in scenes. Delaney got the upper hand at one point to great effect when Merritt, as a short-order cook, said, “SC -- scrambled eggs, what else could that mean?” To which Delaney immediately called in an order for “scalloped eggs.” The whole group knew immediately they had reached the peak with that and cut the scene right there.

The revelation of this sampling though, was Fwand, whose member Kevin Hines played perfectly straight the tale of a boy whom his parents suspect is the second coming of Christ as he nonchalantly walks on water and heals his schoolmates. The whole group expertly wove this story together with Gil Ozeri’s character of another youth with a penchant for killing small animals. The group knew what it had with these counterpoints and eventually tied them together for a contrast between good and evil.

The marathon has grown so much over the years that this year it actually had a run of some groups squeezed into 15 minute time slots instead of 30 minute slots. And with the UCB Theatre as the flagship of three venues for the marathon being filled to the gills at peak times throughout the weekend, making it tough for latecomers to get a good view and follow what’s happening on stage, it seems to be time for the marathon to get one bigger venue for the core of its programming, or it may be in some ways a prisoner of its own success.

  

   

     

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