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The Secret of Their Success

Comedy trio Secret Hospital concludes run of sketch show at People's Improv Theater.

Pictured: Michael Hartney, Rachel Korowitz and Jeff Scherer.

If one thinks about the sketch comedy trio Secret Hospital like a power rock trio like the Police or Cream, they would resemble the former more than the latter, because they are a synthesis of diverse styles of performance rather than a more straightforward and conventional grouping of a rhythm section with a star guitarist.

The dynamic of Secret Hospital, seen at the end of a multi-week run at the People’s Improv Theater on August 30, is two very versatile comedic character performers, Michael Hartney and Rachel Korowitz, paired with a steadying, more straightforward actor, Jeff Scherer. The group also lists Dan McInerney and Patrick Inglis as members, although they were not part of this latest performance.

Hartney and Korowitz make a lot of use of comically oversize wigs, but even donning those, also change their expressions and acting a lot from character to character. They play one scene together as Southern housewives visiting New York with a few catchphrases they use a lot as they order at an Applebee’s, as Korowitz dances around that they’re there to visit her “closeted” son -- at least till Hartney can’t take it anymore and blurts out, “Darlene, your son’s a homosexual!”

At one point, Scherer does get into the crazy character mix, as a drinking-and-drugging British heavy metal singer, making out crudely in a restaurant with a 17-year-old groupie, played by Korowitz. Hartney did the straight-man role here as an unflappable waiter. And the simple joke that emerges in the scene, that Scherer’s rock star really longs for a simple, settled-down life, is played just right.

Hartney can also play a larger-than-life character without costume, as he shows in another sketch as a husband who won’t do anything for himself, and keeps shouting for “Mary” in ever-more intense ways, to get him things from the fridge and other little tasks.

Korowitz, in another scene, plays a mom of a soldier who does desk duty and is jealous of the moms of other soldiers who have actually fought on the front lines and suffered injuries. This character is a little similar to her Southern housewife, but makes a premise like this, that could have seemed cliché in less capable hands, connect with the audience.

Secret Hospital, as a trio come together in a less characteristic scene at one point in this show, where Hartney and Scherer play two brothers who play war games in the house, getting a lot of laughs by miming elaborate torrents of gore in their battles, as Korowitz, playing their mom, yells from another room.

The trio’s sketches often revolve around configurations of two of the three players. More often than not, Hartney and Korowitz play broader and more outlandishly, and while Scherer sometimes ventures into this turf, he is counterpointed by Hartney sometimes dialing it down at other moments. This makes for a flexible and varied group dynamic. Secret Hospital have figured out well how their comic strengths and personalities fit together in performance.




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