This might be the most Fringe-worthy show at the Fringe fest.
The Comedy Academy, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving younger folks — think high school age — a voice in theatre. And that’s exactly what this show does: almost everyone on stage is in high school and is written in part by Liam Brennan, who just graduated high school. The show follows a group of trouble kids in high school who are put into detention. When the principal of said high school gets walked in on mid-philandering in the library, he claims he was coming up with a new idea for the children who spend most of their time in detention. That idea is having them start a comedy club.
Thus begins a barrage of loosely stitched-together comedy sketches, connected by a story of the group versus the president. The story isn’t particularly unique, nor is it meant to be. The sketches range from cringe-worthy to hilarious (though the cringe-worthy ones seem to be meant to be cringe-worthy).
The humor might miss with some older folks, who are a bit removed from high school. But then, these kids are in high school, and they’ve stuck to the old adage about writing: write what you know.
What they know is a world run by oppressive teachers (some good ones fighting for the underdog throughout), principals lacking vision and the difficulties of being young. These things, they attack with comedic vengeance. But more than that, they do it with a zeal and a glee (no pun intended) not often seen in older players.
And that’s what makes this the most Fringe-worthy show at the festival. It goes on until the point where the players in the play are about to put on the play the audience has just seen. As meta as this is, it kind of works. And the reason is simple: these players, both imagined and real, care about what they are doing to a level only seen in those embarking on careers.
The sort of passion one feels when the idea of actually being on a stage in a festival in a major American city doesn’t seem like a task that’s within arms’ reach. And they manage that particular stage with gusto, with passion and with heart.
Since this is a review, it’s important to point out where improvements can be made. There are moments when the actors stumbled over lines or just plum forgot them. For many of the skits, they read off of pages. This works as a prop in the play, and it helps differentiate between skit and play. Nonetheless, the actors should memorize these bits, so they aren’t actually reading off the papers.
Also, in the future, easier titles to remember!
They would have benefited from a few more run-throughs beforehand. But these are small quibbles in the face of a passionately staged and courageous work. Because, in the end, that’s what theatre comes down to: the je ne sais quoi of passion in the face of technicality. Anyone can put on a perfectly spoken play. Not everyone can put on a plan that leaves you remembering the player and the passion.
This did exactly that. Bravo.
Travis rates this 4 out of a possible 5.