PIT sketch show carries just a hint of topicality and delivers some resonating moments
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
“This Week Tonight,” a sketch/variety show seen January 15 at the People’s Improv Theater, isn’t exactly the topical satire the name implies, but it does have some good troupe and duo sketch work to entertain audiences.
The cast overall shows a lot of talent, and Jonathan Desley and Nick Markovich, in particular stood out leading group scenes. Desley clearly had fun playing a wedding videographer ordering around members of the wedding party and wittily mocking them along the way. Markovich led another stand-out sketch where he played a small-town mayor who had maneuvered himself into dictatorship of the town.
The show tended to alternate between these large group sketches, and duo pieces, including a thrice-recurring bit featuring Michelle Thomas and Julie Dulude as TV morning show hosts, rapidly drinking too much wine and getting very emotional. Also going by the rule of threes, the show included a quick succession of three couples, with each guy wanting to have his wife or girlfriend fulfill a fantasy for him – each one being greater in oddity. The third beat of this triad got to be a little repetitive and was wisely made shorter.
Another separate duo piece featured Thomas and Desley as a flower shop clerk who gets dumped just before Desley walks in as a happy and hopeful customer confronted with her ensuing insanity. This piece definitely became funny as one realized what was going on, but ended up drawing out the premise a beat or two too long.
A couple other group pieces had varying degrees of success – one that riffed on old Catskills-style jokes seemed a bit of a misfire, while another that played off murder mystery theater pieces proved creative but also stretched the premise a little too long. This did feature good work by cast member Sean Reidy, however.
The show also included an opening musical variety piece performed by Ashley King and Greg von Portz that grabbed the audience and proved to be an excellent cold open. King and von Portz, however, did not perform with the rest of the cast in any of the other pieces. There was also a surprise appearance by another performer, also outside the rest of the cast, to close the show.
Overall, “This Week Tonight,” as conceived by Lorie Steele, Rob Bates and Markovich, who are listed as directors and producers – no writing credits were given – definitely has flashes of good work, although it could use some tightening and cutting in some pieces. It’s unclear by the title of the show if the material is to be refreshed completely from performance to performance, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
“This Week Tonight” returns to the People’s Improv Theater on Sundays, January 29 and February 12.
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