Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010

UWM's Casual Comedy With David Ives

SHORT CUTS is high-class, low-impact comedy at Kenilworth Square East

By Russ Bickerstaff
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A quick jaunt up the elevators and you’re into a cozy studio theatre space not far from the UWM campus. Classic TV sitcom theme songs play to a gradually growing audience. Tickets are passed-out for a drawing. At intermission, there will be a drawing for a free pizza from downstairs. It’s a very casual environment for UWM Theatre’s production of Davi Ives’ Short Cuts: the Raeleen McMillion-directed program of comic shorts by David Ives. 

 

Playing a bit like a sketch comedy show, David Ives’ Short Cuts makes profoundly enjoyable, light sketch comedy look disturbingly easy to produce. In truth, sketch comedy this good is very difficult to come by. This particular program of shorts are all remarkably well-written with just the right amount of emotional depth to add something to them beyond the immediate, superficial comedy that plays out onstage. The UWM production of this particular set of shorts is deeply enjoyable. With a cast of student actors of limited stage experience, much of what audiences are seeing here is a broad mix of different raw talent levels ricocheting quite enjoyably through five shorts with a brief intermission for pizza and sitcom themes . . .

Captive Audience—Ives’ comic short about a man, a woman and a TV plays out like an old Rod Serling Twilight Zone. The staging here is kind of fun, with a blank box serving as the television and a row of seated, elevated actors delivering bits of TV voice-over as channels are changed. A fun comic intro to the program featuring quite a few cast members who later show up in subsequent shorts.

Sure Thing—This would’ve been the third production of the short I’ve seen, making it one of Ives’ most popular shorts. A man (Brian Firkus) and a woman (Sally Arenberg) meet at a café. An offstage bell (handled by Keiandra Honeysucker) rings every time the conversation veers off in a direction that would keep them from being interested in each other. It’s a fun short with a lot of little bits of dialogue that can be done in any of a variety of different ways. It’s an interesting exercise for two student actors. Their age doesn’t quite match that of the characters they are playing here, but the dialogue itself is intrinsically funny, so even when the timing and delivery aren’t perfect, bits of dialogue go by quickly enough to maintain a solid, enjoyable short from beginning to end.

English Made Simple—Another interesting exercise for theatre students, this short carries itself as a scientific exploration into the nature of communication between one man (Warren Silbernagel) and one woman (Caitlin Wolf.) While they aren’t perfectly polished in the performance, Silbernagel and Wolf deliver an affable, fun personality to the stage that works its way through a series of different personalities and a series of different characters with somewhat drastically different relationships. A panel of three lab coated linguists (played by Honeysucker, Kaleigh Prange and Cheong Hyeon Park) help the audience make sense of what Ives is saying about human connection.

Intermission—TV themes play while people mill about the studio theatre space. A pizza is awarded to the person with the right name.

Time Flies—Kathryn Hausman and Brian Firkus play May Flies on a first (and final) date. The infamous one-day lifespan of the creatures only dawns on them when they decide to turn on a nature special on television. Possibly the single most accessible short in the set, this one is a great deal of fun aided by remarkably endearing, performances by Hausman and Firkus.

Mystery at Twycknam Vicarage—A brilliantly over-the-top parody of the classic murder-mystery is capably delivered at the end of the program. There really isn’t that much to this one beyond the weird, offbeat genre satire. This would be a fun short to watch a more experienced cast decompress with, (particularly a cast that would have extensive experience bringing mysteries to the stage.) With a group of young theatre students, the humor hits the stage as less of a satire—there’s more of a love of offbeat, off-center humor at the heart of this staging of the script that works in its own way. It’s a really fun closer for a remarkably enjoyable evening of light comedy.

UWM Theatre’s production of Short Cuts runs November 6th through 14th at KSE 508 in the Kenilworth Square East building on 2155 North Prospect Avenue. 

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