It’s the Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennett proposal scene! But – what if Mr. Darcy were directing a play about a butterfly catcher and his prey, and instead of wanting to MARRY Elizabeth, he wants her to play his leading lady butterfly?
What if, instead of using his potion to make Lysander fall in love with Helena and abandon Hermia, Puck transported an impish young actress from 1950s New York to ancient Athens and had Lysander fall in love with HER? And what if celebrities actually thought that they’re the gods and goddesses that we sometimes compare them to?
Show Business 201
closes July 29, 2018
Details and tickets
XY Players has created a sketch comedy show that brings to life these scenarios and more in Show Business 201. Some of the premises are intriguing, but unfortunately the overall collection failed to wow me, as the execution fell a bit too much into funny-strange than funny-haha for my liking.
Show Business 201 is billed as a farcical send-up of various aspects of… well, show business. For the most part, I could see the connection in the seven skits, though an eccentric singing teacher bit felt only tenuously related to the theme.
In addition to the situations mentioned above, a wannabe actor gets to act out her version of Arwen and Aragorn’s scene from the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) at “actor karaoke.” Two drag performances get a liiiittle bit too real for a production assistant’s liking. And a robot fears being replaced as Cecily Cardew in a production of Earnest because she can’t display enough emotion.
The tricky element to sketch comedy is to create bold, hilarious characters without treading into territory where we don’t believe they’re actual people. The ensemble (Jonathan Barger, Geoffrey Brand, Victoria Sova, and Cristen Stephansky) makes a good attempt, but fell short on too many occasions for me to find the comedy in what they were doing.
Barger, though, is a delight. He shows a great facility with language, particularly in his scenes as Mr. Darcy and Lysander, which, though delivered rapid-fire, were still imminently understandable. He generally played the straight man in his sketches, but even so, found little ways to make each character different and believable as someone you might run into on the metro. Most of the laugh out-loud moments come from his able comic timing.
Brand, too, seemed to excel when his characters aligned closely with what I assume his own personality is like, but I lost any sense of reality in his performances as soon as he had to step into a more outlandish roles.
Stephansky makes an excellent robot, but most of the other physical character work is poorly done, and too often the actors felt like they were telegraphing what a reaction to a situation would look like, rather than just genuinely connecting with their scene partners and having a reaction. In over-the-top comedy sketches, I found it too distracting and couldn’t take the characters seriously enough to find the comedy in the work.
There are some cute jokes that do land though, so if funny-strange is your thing and you need a break from Fringe drama, check out Show Business 201. Just don’t be expecting SNL for theatre-goers.