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Audience Slayers

Murderfist finds its footing at The PIT, with some stand-out performances.

Pictured (left to right): John Moreno, Carly Goodspeed, Mick Maguire, Kelan Maloney, Walter Replogle, Henry Zebrowski, Ed Larson, Holden McNeely, Tim Dean and Jeff Darland.

The 10-member sketch comedy group Murderfist, beginning a run at the People’s Improv Theater, revels in making an audience uncomfortable. But behind the shock value of some of their pieces, the group has internalized the ethos of Monty Python and early SNL, and built a style all their own on top of that.

Take, for example, a simulated public service announcement hosted by John Moreno, warning of the dangers of autoerotic asphyxiation as cast member Mick Maguire simulates this act, complete with fake penis pulled out of his pants. It’s dark humor of the sort Michael O’Donoghue might have cooked up.

Similarly, Henry Zebrowski ramps up the discomfort level with a masterful take on Marlon Brando, complete with belly and demented ranting, such as (imagined?) sexual activity with co-stars Susan Sarandon and Johnny Depp. Zebrowski even trods out into the audience as he rants, and after witnessing the asphyxiation sketch, you never know just what he might do.

Jeff Darland provides another highlight to Murderfist’s show, with a monologue as a preacher who quickly becomes drunk and psychotic -- again evoking uncomfortable laughter with a scary performance.

Not all of Murderfist’s ideas come off. A couple of pieces in the show are a bit perfunctory, and the video short they showcase in the show sometimes shoots a bit wide of its mark. The short, “Facial Attraction,” also features Zebrowski, this time as a gypsy. Here, Murderfist mines a different sort of repulsiveness for humor in this piece, and the second half of the inherent joke is more gross-out than funny.

But the group evidences enough strong talent and material and cohesion -- demonstrated even by their dimly lit dancing that creates a spectral atmosphere between skits -- to make it possible to say that once they bring all their material up to the same levels reached in the aforementioned segments, Murderfist could be a force to be reckoned with.

Stand Up Experience, a trio of alternative stand-up comedians who perform together, preceded Murderfist. For the most part, Dan Upham was the only one of the three with any coherence to his material, although Seena Jon did have a sustained comic story in his final segment (the three took alternating turns at the microphone), describing his disappointment at being hassled by airport security not for his Middle Eastern appearance but because his driver’s license had expired just four days previous. Upham shined with a conceptual bit as the “Haiku Comic,” reading flaky haikus off cards he threw aside one by one.

Murderfist performs 9:30 p.m. Thursdays in January at The PIT. 

   

     

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