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Rules of the Game

UCB's Law Firm presents a new structure for improv performance

By Cristina Merrill / Jester correspondent

The Law Firm is not afraid to take on the tragic, the random or the bizarre, as they proved in their July 16 "Law & Disorder" show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Performing in front of a full house, six members of the improvisation group poked fun on topics that ranged from human centipedes to Romanian plant doctors. Such unconventional topics would not fare well in the hands of lesser performers. Luckily, The Law Firm is filled with fearless, versatile comedians who understand the wacky and have a firm grasp on it.        

The Law Firm started off by asking an audience member to come up on stage and talk about the time they were in the most trouble. In a preliminary interview that was just as funny as the entire show, Law Firm member Fran Gillespie questioned a 20-something man who spoke about the time he was involved in a car accident due to his driving on the wrong side of the road. He sustained multiple injuries, as did another driver, and was sued two and a half years later for millions of dollars, an amount that was ultimately covered by his insurance company.

“Is your dad the head of Allstate?” asked one Law Firm member. The young man exhibited a calm, borderline unconcerned attitude when talking about the accident, an attitude that was astutely observed and performed by The Law Firm in the opening skits. “You cut me off two and a half years ago and now it’s time to pay the piper,” said Law Firm member Thomas Middleditch.

The best sketch of the night was one in which Gillespie and fellow Law Firm member Sue Galloway played a patient and crooked doctor, respectively. Gillespie was getting desperate to leave the hospital, and her suspicion of the doctor, who did not want to let her go, motivated Middleditch and fellow Law Firm member Craig Rowin to crouch down and put chairs over their heads, pretending they were patients being held in cages against their will. Middleditch urged Gillespie to escape, telling her that Galloway was looking to make a human centipede by connecting mouths to butts. Rowin, on the other hand, begged Gillespie to stay, arguing that a human centipede “could be conceptually awesome.” Thus, the “Human Centipede” joke was born, becoming a huge hit with the audience and a running theme throughout the show.

In a skit combining brilliant physical comedy and subtle humor, Middleditch and Gillespie started to reenact the audience member’s car crash by sitting in chairs on opposite sides of the stage and scooting them closer and closer to each other. Other Law Firm members followed suit, pretending to drive around the stage until everyone crashed in spectacular slow and dramatic motion.

Such resourcefulness with subject matter allowed each member of The Law Firm to bring a little something to the show. Gillespie, a classic beauty and natural performer, and fellow Law Firm member Matt Fisher worked well together when portraying a dysfunctional married and later-divorced couple at various times throughout the show. They were especially on target when Gillespie initiates a divorce on Christmas. “Don’t spoil the mood,” she tells her surprised and despondent husband. Another scene stealer is Middleditch, who with his blonde hair, blue eyes, tall, lanky form and wide-eyed facial expressions easily transitioned between young and adult characters. He was great when playing a frustrated child who was upset because a classmate referred to his Nokia 540 cell phone as “gay.”      

For the second half of “Law and Disorder” (“Is everyone still here?” Law Firm member Matt Fisher asked), Law Firm members asked to read text messages off of an audience member’s cell phone. This led to improv skits on birthdays, apartments and “man boobs.” Law Firm member Nate Lang wasted no time with the last prompt and urged a fellow cast mate to “check out my fucking man tits.” A “man tits” joke could become grotesque in the hands of less accomplished performers, but the Law Firm members pulled it off without it seeming a desperate grab for shock value. They can tell a dirty joke and make it sound highbrow. There were also several jokes related to Romania in the second half of the show (“What’s the deal with vampires?”). Galloway was best when playing a Romanian doctor (“A doctor of plants,” she said. “It still counts.”), complete with accent.

Human centipedes, man tits, Romanian plant doctors -- The Law Firm knows how to take the bizarre and make it seem totally natural and funny. There are times where the skits hit slow, awkward points, but these never last long, thanks to the talented cast. The variety of topics handled by The Law Firm, and the chemistry among cast mates, allow each member to stand out and contribute something unique to the show.

The Law Firm will perform again on Friday, July 23rd at 10:30 p.m. at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

   

     

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