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High and Low

The UCB's Del Close Marathon experiences peaks and valleys from wide range of players.

This review of this year’s Del Close Marathon of improv performances produced by the UCB Theatre captures a much smaller sample of shows than last year’s review, due to time and logistical constraints. To some extent, seeing three hours worth of performances in the marathon Sunday afternoon at the central venue of the UCB Theatre itself did provide exposure to a mix of some out of town groups and some of the UCB’s most experienced or well known performers.

Chicago-based “Thursdays With Ryan” did a little bit more elementary version of the Harold long form improvisation, and oddly seemed to edit themselves or cut off scenes that seemed most promising, or at least more promising than the ones they chose to run with. Nick Paul, as a taller guy in the group, seemed to be channeling Will Ferrell in his performance style, with goofy one-liners in scenes.

They were followed by “Three On One,” a combination of New York-based performer Becky Drysdale (see interview, 5/14/07) with out-of-towners Heather Campbell, Elizabeth Tripplet and Kayla Morrisey. The performance was notable in that since this site last reviewed Drysdale doing improv with Let’s Have A Ball (reviewed 5/18/08), when as she noted in the interview, she’d just taken to doing an improv as a diversion from sketch and solo project pursuits, she’s progressed quite a bit, from getting into scenes less frequently back then, to being the ringmaster in this group, leading with a solo opening monologue for generating fodder for the performance.

Karate Van, also of Chicago, had their own Will Ferrell manqué, in this case, Clayton Margeson, doing his own version, wittingly or unwittingly of Ferrell’s old Jacob Silj voice immodulation syndrome character [who always speaks way too loud for anyone’s tolerance], and it became a highlight of their set.

Later in the afternoon, this reviewer caught another three groups, all comprised of various UCB veterans. First was Let’s Have A Ball, whose core players include Drysdale, Scott Adsit, Tami Sahger and Anthony King (reviewed 5/18/08). Here they were also joined by Zach Woods (of The Stepfathers and The Shoves, see feature, 8/20/05).

The most uproarious performance caught this year followed, by “Delta Force 2,” really the duo of Rob Huebel and Jason Mantzoukas (subbing for Rob Riggle, who missed the marathon due to a movie commitment). The pair spent half the time interacting with the audience, alighting on raunch about one woman who liked Improvised Shakespeare and a man who claimed he got sexual favors in the theater’s bathroom during the marathon. When Huebel and Mantzoukas did eventually get into improvising scenes, they again pulled in the audience as they started flinging water at each other while miming working out on treadmills, and after audience members started tossing up their water bottles to the performers, they turned it into a full-fledged water fight. You have to go with what the scene is about, after all.

Lastly, Omelette Vision, the trio of Billy Merritt, Michael Delaney and Sean Conroy, were maybe the most cohesive group of veterans seen this time around. They excelled at keeping the improv to a few easy to follow sets of characters and occurrences, building on some emerging motifs about these as they continued. All the stories and material they invented was entertaining as the group clearly was having fun with German accents and a warped World War II story.

Although this sampling of performances is smaller than previously reviewed, it shows the inevitable ups and downs of putting on a marathon like this one, with acts from all over the country. Even the best improv performers can have off nights and the less experienced or less known groups seen here did turn to homage on occasion, but with the UCB Theatre’s biggest stars now split between the coasts, the marathon is a rare opportunity to see them all together.




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