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!

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!

REVIEW: The Importance of Being Ernest

Every single male role was played by a female, and the most imposing female role was played by a male. Such was Rude Mechanical’s original conception of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde’s classic play published in 1895.

The play is all about relationships. Algernon, played by Cailean Robinson, and Jack, played by Mason Van Gieson, discuss romance and courtship. Both men develop a facade as they pursue two different women, and they build up a tower of lies until it all comes crashing down at the end in perfectly absurd Wilde-like fashion.

Although the play was supposedly changed to have its setting in the 1950’s, I didn’t notice much of a difference from Wilde’s original conception. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about English social history. Either way, the decision to switch genders was brilliant.

I didn’t realize how well the play would go with women in the shoes of men. Every role was well-acted, from Algernon’s well-timed poses as he recited Wildean witticisms, to Lady Bracknell’s diva pose every time he/she entered the stage.

Also losing his/her pants
Also losing his/her pants

Some of the one-liners were especially ironic, given the change of gender, such as when Algernon tells Jack:

“My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!”

Or this rendition’s focus on the actors fondling their own and each others’ genitalia right in front of the audience (see above picture).

The set design was tasteful without being too imposing. Each act, from Algernon’s flat in London to the drawing-room of the Manor House in the country, had plenty of eye candy and props that the actors were free to interact with at will. There were some scenes where I couldn’t tell if the actions were rehearsed, or if they were entirely ad-libbed. My favorite example of this was in the Garden, where Cecily (in pink) grabs a flower pot and makes some raunchy gyrations with it.

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The only drawback of the play wasn’t because of the acting or directing, but due to Oscar Wilde himself. Say what you will about the man, but you have to admit that he likes his sensational plots. The first act goes out in all different directions, and the second act seems to tread out without telling the audience where its going. It isn’t until the very end of the third act that the play pulls itself together and makes sense of things.  Luckily, Rude Mechanicals made the journey worth it.

PREVIEW: Rude Mechanicals’ “Othello”

Image designed by Madisen Bathish

Come see U-M’s student-run Rude Mechanicals theatre group as they revive one of Shakespeare’s most classic tragedies, Othello. The eponymous character is a highly esteemed general in Venice. Iago is his trusty (or not so trusty) sidekick. But when Othello promotes another soldier to serve as his personal lieutenant, Iago is shrouded with jealousy, and begins a deadly plot of revenge.

What: Rude Mechanicals Presents: Othello

When: November 7-8 at 7 pm, November 9 at 2 pm

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the Michigan League

How Much?: $5 for students, $8 for adults

While you wait for the show to begin, check out this intimate and intense monologue (and almost hilarious) clip from the 1995 film “Othello”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fItEfJhf0oc. Because who else could play any Shakespearean character other than Gilderoy Lockhart?

Beware of the green eyed monster, my friends.

REVIEW: “Into the Woods”

One of the greatest perks about being a UofM student is having exquisite art right at our fingertips. The school of Music, Theatre and Dance is home to one of the top rated musical theatre departments in the country. This department rarely disappoints and “Into the Woods” was no exception. The University Production of “Into the Woods,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, delivered nothing less than what one would expect from this incredible department. The sold out show delighted its audience at the Lydia Mendelssohn theatre last Thursday evening.

The musical flawlessly intertwines the storylines from several of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales as it takes the audience to a place they’ve never seen. Namely, the darker more tragic endings that are not so “happy” after all. The main plot focuses on a baker and his wife and their quest to have a child all while interacting with characters from the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella among others. Sitting in the audience, it was difficult not to lose all concepts of time and space as the cast and crew took you on a mystifying journey through these stories.

As for the performers themselves, Andy Jones and Sam Lips stole the show with their hilarious performances as Cinderella and Rapunzel’s Princes. While skipping across the stage, these two performers nailed the roles impeccably. Their rendition of “Agony” was simply side splitting as the song enlightened the audience to their narcissistic personalities. The two characters provided the majority of the comic relief throughout the show, as they were often unaware of anything that was happening around them.

Additionally, you could not help but fall in love with Olivia Hernandez as she took on the role of Cinderella. She created a character that was relatable and loveable, all while having a powerhouse voice. You could not help but root for her character as she lived amongst an evil stepmother and sisters and was married to a lackluster prince who would rather role around in the “thicket” with another woman than be faithful to her. I must say that Olivia’s interpretation of Cinderella was nearly spot on. Her performance was by far my favorite out of this cast.

The overall production of the show was incredibly high as well. With wonderful costuming, set and lighting design, the show matched that of a professional theatre. As mentioned before, University Productions rarely disappoint and this was but another example of the incredible talent here at the University of Michigan. The show has since wrapped, be I would advise you to be on the lookout for upcoming University Productions!

Cheers