Theater's newest sketch show excels with its own
unique twist and style.
Dave Bennett, Matthew Love, Lorie Steele and Pete LePage.
The Nefarious Popes sketch comedy group, seen at the People’s Improv
Theater on April 16, have a different twist on the sketch format that
isn’t so much completely original as it is a different manipulation of
forms and styles, owing a lot to the Harold long-form improvisation from
which its show appears to have sprung.
Their show, called “The Gertrude,” returning to the theater on April 23,
opens with a loose piece called “The Formula,” that plays a lot like the
word association opening of a Harold performance and the show itself
uses a few pairs of characters that it returns to much in the form of a
The Popes, comprised of Pete LePage, Lorie Steele and Matthew Love, with
supporting players Amanda Peck and Dave Bennett, now wear all black,
allowing themselves to seamlessly segue between their sets of characters
just as improv group might do, without costumes, in a set. But the like
attire allows these performers a cleaner canvas to draw upon.
A few of the group’s sketches built on these sets of characters excel,
namely a pair of cavemen played by Bennett and LePage, and Love and
Bennett as a Facebook neophyte and expert respectively; as well as a
group scene where Love teaches young brides (Steele, Peck and Bennett)
how to poison their husbands.
These three major pieces out of the 45-minute show are all quite
inventively written -- as is a video introduction positing that
“Formula” as how Genghis Khan, Hitler and Darth Vader self-actualized
their plans for domination. There were one or two pieces also in the
show that lacked a strong or biting enough comic premise, but those were
far from undermining the whole.
At times throughout, the Nefarious Popes really hit on some whimsical
lines of dialogues, such as when their cavemen, scoffing at a more
evolved man named “Dave,” are asked “Do you know the ‘first person’
[tense] yet?’ or the Facebook expert, insulted that his friend hasn’t
checked out his profile, demands, “What’s my profile pic then?”, and
lastly, in the poisoning sketch, Bennett, playing a woman without
dressing in drag, demurs that “my Teddy is a chemist, so he won’t fall
for” powdered poison substituted in the sugar bowl for coffee.
All in all, the Nefarious Popes have some very good material and a good
style for performing it, but still a little room to hone and fine-tune,
just by culling and replacing those couple weaker pieces.