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They’re No Creeps

The newly reformed UCB Harold long-form improv teams -- Tantrum and Creep -- hone their comic chops

Pictured: Creep members Eugene Cordero, Eric Bernat, Ryan Karels and Silvija Ozols; and separately, Tantrum's Jeffrey Marx.

In recent months, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has shuffled the membership of its improv teams, mixing and matching members of previous groups, as well as adding new performers to the mix.

In this week’s Harold night, a newer team, Tantrum, joined Creep, an older team that has changed about half its members recently. Tantrum generally has a membership that is newer to the UCB stage, while most of Creep have been performing there for awhile with this group or in others.

In Tantrum, performers Brian Faas, Violet Krumbein and Jeffrey Marx are particular standouts. Tantrum is still working with the constraints of a word game type of opening to its long-form improv and adhering to a few distinct scenes and themes that it will revisit repeatedly and elaborate upon. They are still working within the standard rules for a long form performance taught in UCB’s classes.

Marx dominates scenes, partly with his physical presence on the stage, but also by tapping into a vein of absurdity, as when he injected a scene playing off the theme of “clowns,” by alluding to serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s infamous clown paintings. Faas hides mischief with a genial charm that makes for an interesting dynamic in scenes. Krumbein instantly created a fully realized character of a schoolgirl who is nonchalant about sex and condoms, complete with a squeaky girlish voice -- but not just a caricature, rather a deep portrayal even within comedic scenes.

Creep, for its part, laid out a rapid succession of brief scenes -- about 16 distinct ones within the space of the 30 minute performance -- as it sought to hit upon what characters and scenes would be good to tie together to a crescendo. Around their eighth and ninth scene, they seemed to really hit what they were looking for. As more experienced improvisational performers, they have the chops to take such a strategy in finding the payoff for the performance.

In addition, Creep now possesses a much better sense of material, no longer treading the questionable ground of rape topics it delved into when seen performing a year ago. Eric Bernat of the group scored big with the audience this time as he delivered a monologue as the best friend of a bride who steals her groom that mined melodrama for all it’s worth till he nearly ran out of breath and even beyond that point. Angeliki George and Eugene Cordero also found resonance as a couple who aspire from their youth to run a casino and finally get there. Creep as whole expertly tied together the runaway maid of honor and the casino couple by the end of the improv.

Also part of this night’s shows, the sketch group Hot Sauce presented some of their work as hosts. When previously reviewed earlier this year, this group’s material was still uneven, but if their work in a few brief introductions is any indication, they have raised their game considerably. They had an excellent command of the SNL standby of planting audience members to harangue a host attempting a monologue, and also delivered a dead-on parody of the horror movie Saw.

Next week: A look at more of the new UCB teams.



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