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