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The Boys (and Girls) … Master Harold

UCB’s signature long-form improv show still going strong

By Marshall Stratton / Jester correspondent

Rain steadily falls outside of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, yet this spring shower does not deter an always-sold out crowd from enjoying premier improv. Harold Night, seen April 12, features five house teams performing the Harold, a 30-minute completely improvised structure invented by improv guru Del Close (see book review, 7/20/05). Each team weaves together a show off of a single suggestion from the audience.

Very Good Kiss is the first ensemble to hit the stage. With the suggestion of squid, the team comes out big with the first scene of the night. Dan Klein plays a kid bragging about how his father has all the latest electronics. Klein sits fellow teammate Arthur Meyer down to log onto the internet, via Prodigy, the 90’s dial up service. Opus Moreschi walks on the scene as the father trying to use the phone, thus ruining the dial-up service. As the kids dial up, Jameson Guest steps on and utters the line, “Welcome to the exciting world of Microsoft Dinosaurs” to a big laugh from the crowd. A clever callback came late in the second half of the show when Moreschi comes center stage to make a phone call while Klein and Meyer are just ahead of him trying to launch their spaceship.

Next up, Standard Oil, grabbed an already captivated audience and showed their playful side. Their scenes consisted of a cobbler who doesn’t know what the word cobbler means, an elf sales clerk who judges a customer’s clothing choices, and a card game consisting of naming whether a word is a noun, adjective or adverb resulting in a domestic dispute over public displays of affection. Terry Withers seizes the first scene as a cobbler who strikes fear in the man he has captured, Michael Kane. Withers threatens to “cobble” him while Kane still fearful for his life, plainly asks Withers to define cobble. Veteran Betsy Stover offers the best line of the set as the elf store clerk boldly saying, “Why don’t you take that dress to the sewer!”

Seasoned performers Badman came up third in the night. Their performance displayed why they have been together since 2009. It was a perfect display of silly childish humor mixed with smart pointed wit. Their silliness shown through in a scene with Eddie Dunn as a sarcastic librarian, seemingly mentally handicapped, who with bravado mocks a “Twilight” loving library customer. Another popular scene was set in a strip club featuring historical figures, including Joan of Arc. She was lit on fire and after being extinguished, Tim Martin sleazily says, “Let’s champagne room that.” The second beat of this scene had Mary Todd Lincoln as the stripper. Martin heightens the smutty comments with, “Cry, yeah he’s dead” and “We’re always gonna have slavery.”

Ragnaröck, another team with a couple of years together under their belt, took to the stage fourth. As all the teams before them, they came out strong in the first scene as Emily Axford played the actor Ana Faris’ astral projection. To her, this meant bragging to her date about the size of her chest. The always-clever Patrick Clair brashly points out, “When I think of Ana Faris, I don’t think of her tits!” Axford continues her boasting when Clair asks if she knows what an astral projection is. Axford avoids the question and rambles on as Clair leaves a tip and leaves the table as the scene is edited. The top scene of the show was a writers room of the show, “The Lyon’s Den” the failed Rob Lowe driven series with the writers trying to find inspiration. The writers were so desperate for material, Winston Noel vacantly points out, “I’m just gonna write Rob Lowe on the board and see if that helps us get started.”

Finally, Dybbuk rounds out the night in the fifth spot. Usually teams have trouble entertaining a crowd that has stuck around for two hours of straight improv, but Dybbuk rose to the challenge. They explored simple funny ideas and played them to the top of their intelligence. The first scene exhibited Jesse Lee pushing for a speedy wedding ceremony with his wife. Every moment in the ceremony is exaggerated, especially with a quick line like, “Haven’t seen you since glee club – that was like 30 minutes ago.” Don Fanelli opens a scene with the ridiculous line, “A whale swallowed me; I was in a whale stomach.” It’s later discovered he is cheating on his wife with the whale. The subsequent scene featured Fanelli dealing with a crazy whale girlfriend and the jealous male whales seeking her approval. The team supported each other quite well by filling the space and showing the whale tails flailing around the stage. A nice connection was made near the end with a scene showing the whales being hurried towards a divorce.

This Harold Night featured all five teams attacking the stage early and often. This show is consistently funny and a steal at five dollars for over two and half hours of hilarity. All eight house UCB teams rotate in and out of each week’s show.

The UCB Theatre’s Harold Night is every Tuesday night at 8 p.m.

   

     

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