Improv & Sketch

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

It has been five years since the last edition of Forbidden Broadway, titled Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging. (It always did.) The long hiatus, however, hasn’t dulled the ruthlessness of Gerard Alessandrini, the Drama Desk–winning lyricist and director who satirizes a range of theater shows and foibles, often using classic show music with his own deft lyrics. And he has probably never been more ruthless than in Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation. Smart, vicious and superbly cast, it’s sublime.

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James and Jamesy in the Dark

James and Jamesy in the Dark

James and Jamesy in the Dark is an extraordinary piece of theater that fits no mold but its own. It draws on many sources—or pays homage to them—but it is a unique, thought-provoking delight. Two gifted physical performers (in whiteface and dressed top-to-toe in gray outfits, including gloves) embody the title characters. Eventually, the audience comes to recognize the taller one as Aaron Malkin’s more phlegmatic James and the shorter, more emotionally fragile one as Alastair Knowles’s Jamesy.

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Balls

Balls

Balls, an ambitious mashup of docudrama and satiric commentary, takes the Sept. 20, 1973, exhibition match between Wimbledon champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs as a starting point for assessing social upheavals of the past 45 years. When Riggs challenged King to the match eventually dubbed the “battle of the sexes,” she was 29 years old. Riggs had won at Wimbledon four years before she was born. They squared off in front of more than 30,000 spectators in Houston’s Astrodome as millions more watched on television. Riggs lost in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and King walked away with the “winner take all” purse.

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The Servant of Two Masters

The Servant of Two Masters

There is much to laugh about in Theatre for a New Audience’s (TFANA) production of Carlo Goldoni's raucously entertaining farce The Servant of Two Masters, and boy, do we laugh. Every formula for comedy is either turned on its head or played to its full predictive hilarity. And when the unpredictable moments happen—this archetype of commedia dell'arte requires a fair amount of improvisation and ad-libbing—the risk of going off-script is richly rewarded. Sobering allusions to our current political theater, and maniacally incoherent strings of dialogue chock-full of anachronism, are rendered tolerable and even enjoyable under the guise of farce. Goldoni's capering plot still holds considerable sway over modern theater: Richard Bean's adaptation of this play, One Man, Two Guvnors, was acclaimed on Broadway in 2012 and made a star of James Corden. The genre possesses enough to buoy the weary theatergoer: ostentation, levity and music. But even endless entertainment has its limits, and Goldoni's 1746 story of cross-dressing sisters and miserly fathers hangs by a silken thread.

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My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually

My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually

Every now and then a theatrical experience comes around that breaks the mold. It’s no simple task to categorize Gideon Irving’s performance piece running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Part musical, part stand-up comedy, (very small) part magic act, and part intriguing night in a complete stranger’s living room, My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually is far from a one-trick pony. On the contrary, the hour-and-45-minute show is constantly surprising audience members with laughs, gasps, songs and even snacks!

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Grin and Beer It!

A Brief History of Beerbegins, quite appropriately, by inviting the audience to drink beer. This is not an average toast, however, as the audience is encouraged to really taste the beer—exploring its effervescence, hoppiness, and temperature. Thus begins William Glenn and Trish Parry’s wacky journey through time and space to simultaneously delve into the origins of beer and save it from some unspecified nefarious threat. Despite the plot’s silliness, Glenn and Parry are charming to watch under Jeffrey Mayhew’s direction as they wholeheartedly commit to the ridiculousness of their show.

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Comedy and Cabaret Cocktail

Audiences at the Broadway Comedy Club are in for some head-scratching and knee-slapping as the cast of On The Spot improvises and sings its way to creating a zany new musical performance every Monday night. The cast, made up of five singers, four improv actors and one pianist work together to create an entertaining, eclectic and somewhat perplexing hour and a half of comedy and cabaret.

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“The Ring Has Awoken…”

Sam Gamgee, in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, righteously declares that "there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…  and it’s worth fighting for.” Good theater is also worth fighting for, and you may very well find yourself battling to get a ticket to see Fly, You Fools! Presented by Recent Cutbacks, it is currently playing Friday evenings at Peoples Improv Theater in Manhattan.

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Wordless Wonder

What is the definition of HTI—Hug Transmitted Infection? Mike Spara tells you in his wordless solo sketch, "Give That Guy a Hug," one of more than 14 that constitute his show Conversations With ... Body Language. In the “Hug” sketch, Spara portrays a man who wants to give out free hugs. In the background, words on a projection screen explain that the man who is trying to give away free hugs is “totally clean and free of STDs: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, or to use the less archaic term, STIs: Sexually Transmitted Infections.” 

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Tasty to a Point

The aptly named Commedia dell’Artichoke doesn’t veer far from its roots—commedia dell’arte, the knockabout comedy style of Renaissance Italy. Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Mastersis a prime example, and although it is occasionally seen on stage nowadays, it was adapted exuberantly into the Broadway hit One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden, who won a Tony Award for his slapstick performance.

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Murder Most Merry

The arrival of Shear Madness in New York comes 36 years after the runaway hit opened in Boston. Since then, other editions have taken up residence in other cities, and inevitably the suspicion arises that the lengthy delay bodes a show that might not meet New York’s high standards. Happily, the lunatic confection at New World Stages indicates the opposite: all those years have helped create an indestructible engine for laughter that should keep its cast bankrolled for quite some time.

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Whose Lyric Is It, Anyway?

Back when I was in high school, my cousin and I made up an impromptu jazz-age musical called Loser: The Musical, wherein a lowly, poor broom boy (based on a broom boy at the local Dunkin' Donuts whom my cousin and her sister insisted I had a crush on — don't ask) falls in love with a rich girl he stumbles upon one day. As one could expect, there were cheesy numbers galore, with inclusion — of course — of the musical's title theme, "Loser," which our hero would sing forlornly as the rich girl drove away with her Also-Rich-But-Also-A-Jerk fiance.

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A Lesson on Rape Culture

While circuses and clowns are amusing, rape is far from a laughing matter. In A Lesson On Rape Culture, playwright Cecilia Copeland uses the world of a circus act to invite people into a safe space to talk about our culture in relationship to rape. The show is conducted by the ringmaster played by Jennifer Harder. With the help of two clowns played by Romy Nordlinger and Rachel A. Collins, this three-women traveling circus act promises to “…dazzle you and make you uncomfortable” and sure enough they will.

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Political Pandering

The cleverly titled Tail! Spin! is only tangentially related to a deadly airplane maneuver. Think of “tail” as a euphemism for sex, and “spin” as the result, and you’ll be close to the subject of the sketches satirizing four politicians whose sex scandals were once hot but now are receding from memory. "Tailspin" might be applied to what happened to their careers as a result.

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New York Horror Stories

In their 11th year of scaring the residents and tourists of New York City, producers Timothy Haskell (creator of Nightmare) and Steve Kopelman (producer of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare) have once again devised an unforgettable haunted house, with the theme Nightmare: New York. 

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Spark of Life

Now celebrating its fifth season, Redd Tale Theatre Company launches its “Summer of Creation” with two one-act plays that share a common theme. Pairing the enduring and immortal tale of Frankenstein with an original science fiction drama called Gabriel results in a fascinating juxtaposition for theatergoers.

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What Do Homosexuals Do With Each Other?

Sex*But is a staged reading running every Sunday night at the Belt Theater. Director Erik Sniedze has assembled a talented cast of men

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