"Character Dogville" improv show could benefit
from greater common ground.
Mayer and Wayne Henry in character as part of "Middle Village" in a
previous "Character Dogville."
Comedy Collective led by Stacy Mayer has been at The Sage Theater near
Times Square for over a year now, after leaving longtime downtown digs,
and when seen recently after a long time away, unfortunately seems to
have lost some steam.
The group’s March 5 performance, a Wednesday night granted, consisted of
two sets of performers doing improv in character under the “Character
Dogville” banner, and while they captured the bleak ennui of the movie
“Dogville” that inspired that banner, they really needed more than a few
spare amusing moments that often took too long to find.
The first set of performers, dubbed “Afterpants High School,” were
dominated by Jeremiah Murphy’s amusing vice principal character, whose
sing-songy high German voice resembled the “Mooninites” from Aqua Teen
Hunger Force, perhaps a little too closely. The other characters, such
as “Sol Bernstein” and “Posey Chesterton,” ricocheted off each other
without being able to take the story anywhere, leaving Murphy as the
best thing in most scenes.
The second set of MCC performers, dubbed “Middle Village,” and including
Mayer, did fare a little better, with sad sack personalities coming
closer to building a story. They etched their characters more memorably
as well, notably “Petunia Lee Swanson,” played by Wayne Henry as a manly
lesbian coffeehouse proprietor (click
here for a look at the Petunia character); “Barbara, like
Barbara Bush but just Barbara,” played by Devon Ragsdale, a teen who
wasn’t cool enough to work retail at the mall and instead scrubs floors,
which she did through most of the improvisation; and Stefan, a German
exchange student with an improbably sunny disposition. Even “Posey
Chesterton,” joining the group, seemed to have more to riff off with
this set of players.
The MCC ensemble certainly does challenge themselves by doing improv in
character where the characters each of them choose are so wildly
divergent that it may indeed be difficult for them to connect. A critic
can suggest some things that would help performers in a review, but
can’t necessarily recommend wholesale changes. Still, putting together
characters that are more likely to be in the same universe could help.
The juxtaposition of disparate personalities in Character Dogville
handicaps its performers from generating comic sparks.
The Manhattan Comedy Collective’s “Character Dogville” continues its
run at the Sage Theater, 10 p.m. Fridays, March 14, 21 and 28.