TO Fringe Review: Carnegie Hall Show! & S&P and Sega Geniuses Vs. The World

photo courtesy the National Theatre of the World website

Let it be known that I think good improv is a really tough thing to do. I admire people who attempt it. It’s great fun when it’s successful, and it’s kind of painful when things aren’t clicking.

It’s tough to review too, since it’s so different from one night to the next. I really like the Carnegie Hall Show. I didn’t like S & P and Sega Geniuses Vs. The World much. Your results might differ entirely.

First, the good: the Carnegie Hall Show, put on by locals The National Theatre of the World, is a good show with a lot of laughs. They’ve been doing this show on a weekly basis for something like a year and a half now, so the chemistry between the performers is top-notch. Noon on a Saturday isn’t the easiest time slot to fill, but after a funny song from “Billable Hours” star Brandon Firla (having local actors sing in their show seems to be one of the show’s schticks this Fringe) and a declaration from Ron Pederson that he was already drunk, they were off.

The first half of the show, the premise being a “retrospective of the greatest ever improvised scenes” on a particular subject, was a bit scattered; the topic taken from the crowd was sunscreen, kind of a tough one to get into, but the cast certainly tried, tossing out scenes of the origins of sunscreen from Roman times when “Romulus and Remus were battling Ramses” for control of Rome and trotting out commercial ideas. The second half, a “radio show” improv with a title of “Theatre of Crickets” sponsored by “Johnson’s boar loin,” also taken from audience suggestions, was funnier. Chris Gibbs stood out as particularly good throughout, though fellow cast members Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram and Pederson all had inspired moments as well. I highlighted this show as one to see before the festival and was not disappointed.

S & P and the Sega Geniuses are two separate local improv groups. The premise was that each troupe would take half of the hour long show, and they each spoke to an audience member before their set for ideas. The two women who were interviewed talked about what they did for a living, what they liked to do on a date, etc., and theoretically the improv was to flow from that.

However, after an hour of random, scattered scenes I was perplexed. The interviews did provide a lot of material, but neither group really seemed to draw much inspiration from them. The first lady they spoke to was genuinely a bit odd; it somehow came up that she didn’t like to eat with her bare hands, and went to great lengths to explain that while she worked for a design studio, she wasn’t a designer. This led to S & P’s funniest line, when one of the performers stated that he worked in a restaurant, but wasn’t a restauranteur. However, the all-male group seemed to think it was funnier to have two of them pretending to make out on stage, run a few scenes on tired cliches about relationships, and inexplicably have some dull characters in an office scene who mostly just said “all right” and “ok” in moronic voices find a portal to another dimension, which really went nowhere.

Sega Geniuses managed to do a little better with their material, which came from a woman who worked a dull office job to support her real passion of stage managing and didn’t like her roommate’s boyfriend. Still, there weren’t a whole lot of laughs to be had, and the last scene when they decided they were doing a production of Oliver Twist, despite the “director” appearing to not know any scenes from Oliver Twist, dissolved into some mild jokes about the lead being a paraplegic and loudly declaring “I’m EQUITY!” Again, there was probably some good material to explore from the interviewee, but it didn’t really shine through in the improv. I wonder if the two groups were a bit worried about offending the two people they interviewed; it’s one thing to take abstract suggestions from the audience in improv, but it would be hard to take specific things from an audience volunteer and make people laugh at them without being mean.

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Posted on by Brian in Everything, Fringe, Reviews, Theatre

One Response to TO Fringe Review: Carnegie Hall Show! & S&P and Sega Geniuses Vs. The World

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