Ladies' Night

The director's role in the creation of most productions is that of Ultimate Decision Maker. (S)he is in charge of making key calls concerning the script, the actors, the costumes, the sets—everything that is seen or said onstage. Some directors will have a specific vision of what the show should be, and will work to make that vision come alive. Others will work with their creative team to put together a greatest-hits compilation of all their strongest ideas. But what happens with a show that's missing a director? If the writer is living and involved with the production, not a syllable will be omitted from the script, even if scenes are overly long. Often, the actors will be given too much freedom and will indulge in unnecessary pauses. Most of all, there will be no overarching purpose or plan for the play, resulting in a limp night in the theater. This is the case with Ham & Egg, a decently performed, sometimes funny, but ultimately uninspired sketch show currently running at Under St. Marks.

Six sketches and a few videos feature Meg Kelly Schroeder and Pam Wilterdink, two thirty-something actresses who are skinny enough to pull off wearing micro-mini nurse uniforms and rocker spandex, and ballsy enough to play characters like snaggletoothed, jazz-loving sisters and middle-aged, middle-American bus drivers. Each scene is played with elaborate costumes and wigs to transform these ladies into women (and one boy) from different walks of life.

Generally, the live sketches tended to run a little long without decent resolution. Longer still were the videos, some picking up on the stage action, some telling their own stories, but all relying on the Family Guy idea that something dumb or awkward is amusing if left to go on for a ridiculous amount of time. There were also problems with the sound not syncing up to the picture, which made the short films seem even less short.

The scene changes were lengthy as well, probably to give the actresses time to change. Cleanup was done by Scott Myers (in purposefully unconvincing drag or in character from previous scenes), taking his sweet time to remove furniture or to add set decoration. (What Myers lacks in swiftness he certainly makes up for in popularity; on the night of this review, he seemed to have a lot of supporters in the crowd who loved his bits.)

The distaff duo's most effective characters were the ditzy blond nurses of "The Nurses" and the buttoned-up Victorian librarians in "The Eagle & the Hawk." It wasn't just that these were well-known stock characters that the audience had an easy affinity for. These scenes (the first and last of the evening) were highly stylized, and Schroeder and Wilterdink seemed to have a great time (and a natural instinct for) tapping into the soap opera and Masterpiece Theater genres. The writing was also wittier and more playful. Perhaps more than two scenes played so archly would've been overkill; still, that seems preferable to being underwhelmed by the rest of the show.

It's interesting to wonder what Ham & Egg could have been with a director. Instead of 90 minutes, it could've been a tauter 60. Instead of interminable film clips, it could've had quick gags (with quicker costume changes backstage to make up for time lost in the video segments). And instead of a slapdash production with flashes of brilliance, it could've been a streamlined show and a better showcase for its stars' talents.

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