In the last few months I’ve been slowly returning to my love of theater.
For those who don’t know, before working at Fenway I honed my Playing Music In Between Things skills at Improv Asylum for four years after working through their training center program. In the process I was involved with lighting, scoring, directing, and occasionally acting in around four hundred shows, mostly at Improv Asylum but also in New York, Chicago, and just across town at Cambridge’s Improv Boston theater, located at that time in Inman Square. I’ve been a theater dork my entire life, tech and directing specifically, and even given rough moments those years were full of wonderful experiences.
Recently, I’ve started going to shows again. It was a little tough at first; it took time to quiet the instinct to critique performances and get back to what I love about live comedy and theater that got me into it in the first place.
One show quickly emerged as my favorite, and it never fails to deliver.
Before You Die : The Kerfuffle
The Kerfuffle takes place on the second Wednesday of every month at Improv Boston. Described simply, it’s a variety show, but the Kerfuffle embraces its improvisational roots from production to execution.
“Lady-hosts” Hannah Foell and Jackie Arko, along with co-producer Casey Malone, choose a theme for each month’s performance. Contributors applying for stage time provide only a title, list of participants, and estimated running time in hopes of being selected. Hannah and Jackie host onstage while Casey manages from the back row of theater seats, and the show unfolds in chaotic absurdity that somehow reliably delivers huge laughs.
The show has been running for almost a year. Some acts are staples, each finding a new riff to echo the given theme of a performance, but each show has a mix of both veteran and new performers that keeps the experience fresh and unexpected. I went to December’s show, themed “The End Of The World”.
Lady-hosts Jackie Arko & Hannah Foell (photo by @shaxxon)
For the first time I’d yet seen, The Kerfuffle featured a cold open sketch, and it set the scene perfectly for what was to follow. The cast of Improv Boston’s Family Show imagined the challenges in putting on a kid-friendly musical on the last day of history. Much like the show to follow, it quickly got dark.
December’s show was nothing but highlights; after a traditional opening capped by hurling pots of off-brand Play-Doh into the crowd, Hannah and Jackie introduced Brian Donnelly, who performed a monologue as Cobra Commander, quitting his job waiting tables. Once Cobra Commander had confessed his transgressions to his co-workers, Shawn Musgrave (with a guitar accompanist) sang a sweet coming-out ballad titled “It Gets Worse” that, were it recorded, would immediately take over the entire internet.
The night’s first video, “Je T’aime, Bonne Chance, Finalologue!” was a cartoon exploring the meaning of love in the style of classic French film. Presented by Lori Strauss, its brilliance luckily exists online for your perusal; possibly not at work if you have one of those uptight offices.
Finalologue was immediately followed by the evening’s second film, interpreting the Book Of Revelation (Illustrated & Abridged), and the show’s first half closed with a sketch whose ominous introduction warned that the performers (Ben Scurria and Jimi MacAvoy) hoped nothing were to “go wrong”, but if it did “we would know”.
It was a touching story: two guys, working the line at the eggnog factory, bemoaning all they would miss once the world was over and drinking every single eggnog they could lay hands on. Because you are possibly eating something, this is a picture taken around one minute (and one ‘nog each) into the sketch.
Fortunately, very little went wrong (other than eternally cementing my hatred of eggnog) and after intermission The Kerfuffle got rolling again with regular act The Robert Woo Experience, a combination video/live-action staple contemplating how the last man on earth might spend his days. The video is at the end, and is also arguably not something you would show your grandmother.
Geoff Ross‘ performances have been a personal favorite of mine since starting to watch live theater again. He works in monologues, each one strongly characterized and a perfectly executed, often with a tone of menacing genteel. At The End Of The World, he presented “This Is Our Last Family Dinner Before We All Turn Into Cannibals So the Least You Can Do Is Be Nice To Your Mother, Samantha” which I think pretty well says it all.
Oh hey, way to go, internet:
Baby Giraffes followed, bemoaning the death of the Internet and concluding the sketch with a fantastic take on Bill Pullman’s Top 5-level Presidential Speech In Film from ID4.
The closer was a character callback to November’s show that I hope remains a fairly regular feature. Christine Cuddy‘s dark mysterious Gaga-esque pop star PRISM blew out the end of the show, arriving in a coffin and spray of confetti and filling the club with heavy beats and dancing monks. I want to be able to find video, but much like The Kerfuffle as a whole, the only real way to capture the experience is to be there.
The Kerfuffle returns tonight for the first show of 2013 with The January Kerfuffle: Epic Failure at 9:30. Find your tickets on Eventbrite via IB, and give The Kerfuffle your clicks and follows to plan your own visit via Facebook and Twitter.
The Kerfuffle, second Wednesday of the month, 9:30pm at Improv Boston
And now, The Robert Woo Experience Ω: