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Aspen Martins

Two duos and a solo performer perform top-notch sketch shows as they aim to make the cut for the US Comedy Arts Festival

Near right: Kevinda: Kevin Douglas and Inda Craig-Galvan. Far right: Two Girls for Five Bucks: Daiva Deupree and Cathleen Carr.

The sketch comedy duos Kevinda and Two Girls for Five Bucks presented well-written shows clearly ready for bigger stages -- if they aren’t there already -- in a HBO/US Comedy Arts Festival showcase (the festival itself will be February 28-March 4 in Aspen, Colo.) held at the People’s Improv Theater in New York on December 8.

As both their shows play out, the duos reveal underlying layers in their material as they tell their stories.

Chicago-based Kevinda (Kevin Douglas and Inda Craig-Galvan) thrive on sending up misconceptions and racism, delivering pieces that have an edge. One good example -- Douglas goes into audition for a (tasteless) radio ad for a (again, tasteless) Martin Luther King Day furniture sale. Like Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor’s legendary SNL word association test skit, Douglas is forced to read blatantly discriminatory copy till he can’t take it anymore. At the same time, it pokes holes in racist attitudes in the best way, by being funny. Well done.

The duo also prove themselves to be really deft at switching characters on the fly -- without any prop or costume changes -- in a sketch playing off a duo of “white”-acting black girls against a duo who aren’t -- as they do some gossiping around an office. It’s a smart send-up of what Douglas calls “safe black people.”

But race is not all the duo is about. Another highlight Douglas tries to deal with Craig-Galvan’s would be fiancee who has an imaginary friend. This is an original idea and they play it out well with unexpected twists and turns.

Kevinda was effectively the headliner of this show, and deservedly so. They may not be in New York very often, but when they are, they’re not to be missed.

“Two Girls for Five Bucks,” Daiva Deupree and Cathleen Carr, score most in their show with two comically unlikable friends who grew up together and now work in human relations together, in bits parceled out in segments over the course of their show. They start hosting a bachelorette party at which they unwittingly insult everyone, and from there goes on to their relationship bumblings.

Other sketches in Deupree and Carr’s show play off being sexy, sure, but are also well written. In two takes on the same idea, a spurned lover stalking her ex, Deupree’s works better and is a highlight of the show -- she’s leaving a long obsessive voice mail and then sees him out with another girl. Another plus for this duo is the one time they use a short film, it’s for a piece that couldn’t be done right just on stage -- at least not in a black box theater with not much scenery.

Fortunately for New Yorkers, this city is the duo’s home base, giving us more chances to see them, and they’re definitely worth seeing as well.

Lastly, Livia Scott of sketch group Meat opened the show with a succession of brief bits of her range of characters. The nasty elderly film critic, Cynthia Falconcrest, is still this site’s favorite, and Scott wisely can keep this one fresh with new movie and pop culture references every time. Still waiting for a full-length show of this character, which could certainly be stretched. Another of her characters though, a Chicken McNugget, runs a close second, as she draws a strange world for the McNugget protagonist through its monologue.

Good luck to all these performers in making Aspen. They’re certainly ready.



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