REVIEW: ComCo The Big Show

When my friends and I grabbed seats near the front of the Lydia Mendhelson theater we had arrived over 40 minutes early to ensure prime seats, and yet the first several rows were already packed with people.  Despite being held in a bigger venue than the past several shows I had been to, the seats started filling up quickly, and even with ten minutes left before the start of the show all I could hear was a dull roar as both the main floor and balcony were filled with noisy students excited for their pre-finals fix of improv comedy.

The show opened with a short video clip that prepped the audience for the show they were about to be treated to.  With a dramatic narration done ala morgan freeman, describing the club as if they were not merely a (very good) improv group, but instead a group of heroes destined for greatness, it sent ripples of chuckles through the audience.

Once the Comco members took to the stage the audience was cheering like mad, ready for the show to begin. They opened with a long-form game called “monologue.” Two cast members would  come up and give short monologues based off of a prompt given by the audience, and then the rest of the cast members would riff off those stories for a god 10-15 minutes, jumping in and out as needed.  Some of the situations and stories were so absurd I couldn’t help but laugh, but the cast members did a wonderful job keeping each scene flowing and relating them back to the previous scenes for added laughter.

One of my favorite games of the night was when two cast members had to act as the arms for another two, either working in unison or sabotaging them, and reacting to whatever scene was taking place. The scene was two passengers in a turbulent air plane ride, one freaking out while the other tried to calm them down, to no avail.  Watching the cast members helplessly going along with whatever their “hands” decided to do was nothing short of hilarious.

I’d like to also emphasize how well the cast members bounced off each other as well as read the audience.  If a joke was ever falling flat they did a good job of picking it right back up or cutting the joke short.  Conversely, whenever a joke was doing particularly well they were able to really play it up, reacting in time to the audience and giving them whatever caused the largest cheers.  That being said my friends and I were constantly cheering  and laughing throughout the night, ensuring that my cheeks were red and sore by the time we were leaving the theater.

One of the most touching moments of the night was when the Comco players said their farewells to the graduating seniors, giving them large posters with every show they had done in Comco on the front, and touching personal notes on the back. Both the comco members on stage, and several audience members were holding back tears.

Finally, after that touching moment it was time to close the show just as they close every show, with the game “I like my men like I like my ______,” allowing audience members to fill in the blank to humorous responses. I especially like that they invite Comco alumni onto stage to complete that game with them.  My friends and I couldn’t stop talking about our favorite moments from the show the entire walk back, and despite this being their very first Comco show, they are raring to go back next year.  Check out Comco at their facebook page, here!

REVIEW- Insurrection: Holding History

Reading the synopsis of this play online had done little to prepare me and my friend for the powerful, and emotional journey into the US’s dark history of slavery that awaited us in the intimate space of the Arthur Miller theater. This interpretation of Robert O’Hara’s 1995 play was brilliantly adapted by the Department of Theater and Drama into a nearly three-hour long production filled with twists and turns.  O’Hara’s play is a time-traveling look into Nat Turner’s 1831 slave insurrection, from the point of view of Ron, a modern-day college student completing his thesis on slavery, and his 189 year-old grandfather, T.J., who was a part of the rebellion himself.

Before the play even began, I noted how intimate the Arthur Miller theater was, and that proved to only add to the emotional impact of the play itself.  The set was minimal and yet entirely sufficient to capture the feeling and multiple locations of the play.

One of my major takeaways was that every single actor had their intensity dialed up to the very top for the majority of the play’s runtime.  There were moments that left me breathless, as the actors went through emotions of extreme fear, anger, sadness in quick succession.  In the second act this was particularly noticeable, as the few moments that were quieter in nature were even more impactful, soft whispers standing in drastic contrast with the high energy shouts and cries of other scenes. Most of the actors also played multiple characters, and I was shocked at how easily they seemed to switch from one to the other.

Additionally, the actors were clearly working hard physically, with a large portion of the play being heavily choreographed or strenuous to do. I noticed that many of the actors would be sweating by the end of a short monologue, which only added to the emotional intensity.  While I know little about stage direction, it was an extremely lively play with never a dull moment, as the actors tripped, danced, and ran around not only the stage, but the entire theater.
I wasn’t expecting there to be the amount or level of comedy in this play as there ended up being.  Almost every other minute the actors sent the audience into a load roar of laughter.  Considering the dark themes of the play, the comedy felt uncomfortable at times, but I assume that was part of the point.  

I highly recommend attending future shows put on by the Department of Theater and Drama.  I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining or engaging weekend.

REVIEW: Bronze Elegance Fashion Show

I’ve never been the most on top of the fashion world.  When I flipped through the pages of Vogue as a kid I could never put my finger on what made certain outfits so visually appealing. That being said, I was extremely excited to attend the Bronze Elegance annual fashion charity show this year, and see the diverse and choreographed fashion production I had heard about.

One of the things that that became instantly apparent as I walked in the door was how stylish the general crowd attending this show was. Almost all of the attendees were dressed to the nines, with several of the women standing in line with me looking like they could have just stepped off the runway themselves.  After I had a wrist band tied around my wrist, I headed to find a seat to the side of the stage, and waited for the show to begin.  They had  mounted a large screen over the stage, so that everyone could get multiple different angles and views of the models no matter where they happened to be seating.

As soon as the first model walked out onto stage, we were immediately treated to something far closer to a choreographed dance than a runway walk, where each model interacted with the other models walking behind them in some way.  This same alternative and performance-oriented direction  was carried out throughout the show, with each collection having a different type of “choreography,” or element that made it special and stand apart.  My only complaint with the first collection was that the outfits were not cohesive, however later collections were much more cohesive, and fit together perfectly.

Another interesting element of the fashion show was the space in which it was held itself.   When decorated and separated by a large black curtain, the inside of the gym was transformed into an almost entirely new space.  One of my favorite aspects of the venue is that there were large windows on either side of the gymnasium, and as the fashion show progressed we could see the light outside gradually fading into pitch black as the sun set, adding to the ambiance of the show.  Additionally, I liked how the lighting changed throughout, colors picked carefully to complement the  designs on stage.  Perhaps my favorite element of the environment were the fog machines, which were used off and on throughout the show.  During one particularly foggy section it seemed as if the models completely emerged from an entered into a foggy portal at the back of the stage, really adding to the feel of the show!  Later on, as one of the final and most dramatic runway walks, all the lights were shut off as black lights were turned on to reveal glow in the dark body paint over all of the models!

My favorite collection presentation of the entire night came at the end of the first half, where six dancers came out onto either side of the runway, and proceed to do an expertly choreographed dance routine as the models walked through the middle.  After this astonishing performance intermission started, giving me time to mingle and prepare myself for the second half.

The second half of the show also featured two different musical artists performing in between the individual collections. While I failed to catch the name of the first performer, the second performer was a budding musician and former vine star Wolf Tyga.  These music interludes were a fun way to further break up the shows and diversify what was being presented. In general I really enjoyed the music picked for the background of each collection in the show, and thought that the music was picked well to fit with the theme of each collection and further emphasize them.

Every time I thought that the last collection would be the flashiest and most impressive, they managed to change things up and keep me more and more intrigued.  Now I truly understand why their tagline was “A show with fashion” instead of just a “fashion show.”

To follow bronze elegance and get information about their future projects and next year’s show you can check out their official website or their instagram,

PREVIEW: ComCO- The Big Show

With classes ending and finals just around the corner (if they haven’t started already), what better way to loosen up, laugh, and get the energy you need to make it through the next several weeks than a brilliant improv comedy show by ComCo!  Join them tonight at 8PM at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the Michigan League for laughs and a good time.  The last few times I’ve gone to a Comco Show I ended up smiling so hard my cheeks hurt!

 

Tickets are 5$ at the door or 3$ at the MUTO. I highly suggest you arrive a half hour early at the very least to get good seats, these shows have a tendency to sell out!

PREVIEW: Insurrection: Holding History

 This weekend join the Department of Theater & Drama for a poignant production of the award winning Insurrection: Holding History.  The play dives into a time-traveling exploration of black history as a young grad student who shares a mental bond with his 189-year old grandfather travel through eras of US history, gaining new perspective in each one..

The show will be running from April 6th to the 9th in the Arthur Miller Theater on North Campus.  You can purchase tickets for all the upcoming show times online here.  General admission is $28 with  students only paying $12 with their M-card.  As a warning the play contains very mature films, so think carefully about who you bring.

PREVIEW: Heather Dewey-Hagborg Stamps Speaker Series

What intrigued me the most about this week’s speaker was the description of her transdisciplinary art in the first place, biopolitical art.  I was intrigued to see how she would combine those elements into her art, and what possibilities it unleashed as to the scope of what she can create.  With her work shown around the world, and sparking the interest of publications as varied as The New York Times, the BBC, to Wired, I knew we are in for a real treat tonight.

 

One of her most fascinating, and potentially controversial, projects is Stranger Visions.  In this series she first collected stray hairs, chewed up gum, and other items that carry trace amounts of DNA from around NYC.  She then uses genomic research to create 3D printed sculptures based on what the individuals in question might look like.  This project has shown the true scope of current technology, while also drawing interest and criticisms from far and wide because of it’s rather controversial subject matter.

Even more controversially, she’s worked with Chelsea Manning, renowned whistleblower involved with Wikileaks, to create 3D printed portraits from her DNA. As described on her website, the project is a “homage and exploration of gender identity stereotypes in forensics DNA phenotyping.”

You can learn more about Heather Dewey-Hagborg and her many projects on her official website, here.

This is the last lecture in this semester’s regular Stamps Speaker Series! Be sure not to miss it and the subsequent special event with screenwriter Doug Miro! The lecture will be at 5:10 PM, Tonight 4/5 in the Michigan Theater.  As always it will be free to the public.  You can find more information about these last two events in the series here, and watch out for the series starting up again next fall!