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And Then There's Maude

UCB gives stage time for best of its exponentially growing stable of sketch writers and performers.

Sean Clements of Stone Cold Fox and Rob Webber of Mixtape '98.

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s new Maude sketch comedy night, seen March 10, is proving to be a very entertaining and welcome complement to its Harold night of improv.

The first of two Maude Night shows featured the groups Mixtape ’98 and Stone Cold Fox. Performing first, Stone Cold Fox had some great moments in its material although the running order of its pieces seemed a little random, and a recurring solo turn by Cody Melton as a highly ineffective pick-up artist saw its second two appearances crammed in late in the group’s set.

Two of the group’s longest and most sustained pieces featured most of the group members working together. One in which they all played crackheads bidding in an auction could have easily relied on stereotypes for all its humor, but instead sidestepped this successfully by giving each performer a piece of business or quirk or weird obsessions with certain objects, such as buttons (Sean Clements), a wine bottle (Nate Lang), or oral sex (Joe Spellman).

Even better, another sketched mined the origin of the Amish renunciation of modernity, supposing there might have been a cutoff date after which they wouldn’t use new inventions, with Clements playing a leading role. Clements also had a solo piece with some edge, evoking wholesale cruelty to puppies, and actually making that funny, all through his delivery of a comic concept. Additionally, group members Nate Lang and Fran Gillespie excelled in a sketch about a bad first date built on a huge misunderstanding.

Mixtape ’98 had a set that gelled more as a whole, even pacing its solo pieces by group members adeptly. The eldest member of the group, Rob Webber, got to have fun playing a hook-handed menace to lovers, women alone and even a group of poets. Cecilia Lederer proved the most versatile of the group, as she played a range of people that included a young boy with cancer whose wish is to perform comedy … which turns out to be in the style of Def Comedy Jam, as well as an embarrassing mom who’s too interested in what her daughter and daughter’s boyfriend might be doing.

In their solo pieces, group members Marcus Bishop Wright, Ari Scott and Rob Webber, played, in turn, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, as though they were campaigning for their futures as performers which could be greatly helped depending on who takes office next year. But best of all, the entire group came together in terrific fashion for a closing sketch parodying NPR, well-anchored by Phaea Crede, with a turn by Brandon Gardner as ex-football player Brian Bosworth trying to get the rest of the players to focus on the game they were supposed to be broadcasting. Webber impersonated a familiar NPR newsreader; Lederer channeled Nina Totenberg; and group member Timothy Dunn skillfully sent up Ira Glass.

If these two groups performances in Maude Night are any indication, the UCB Theatre is giving its exponentially growing stable of performers more opportunity to showcase great material. With both groups, some of the performers also wrote the material, but each also had additional writers crafting the material as well.




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