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Thespian tracker Liz Naiden sends Bwog this dispatch from the spring showing of LateNite Theater, playing tonight and tomorrow at 11 p.m.
As the LateNite crowd stumbled in they may or may not have had time to engage in thoughtful conversation with the giant computer screen projected onto the back wall of Lerner’s Black Box theater.
If they got through their programs at a near sober rate, they probably spent at least 10 minutes watching the “man behind the curtain” typing inside jokes for people in the audience, insulting his own taste in music, and displaying his private AIM conversations.
It only got more absurd from there.
Awkwardness owned “My Response to the Zombie Question” from the beginning. Ariel Karlin’s one woman play, performed almost too realistically by Emily Kaplan, is the monologue of everyone’s inner basket-case. Emily plays a disaster shelter leader who’s nervous energy and enthusiastic fear of everything take her from awkward group introductions to the unhinged declaration that she “always knew something like this was going to happen!” Somewhere deep in her childhood fear of vampires, she knew that one day there would be a zombie attack. Classic awkward humor at it’s best, if you like that sort of thing.
When the lights raise again we have left The Office and entered Rob Trump’s not-so-classic “Murder Mystery.” Trump’s spin on the murder mystery is sufficiently clever – the story is actually of five friends holding a murder mystery party, including Kim (Lauren Glover) and her boyfriend William (Colin Drummond) who attends against his will. The realism and sarcasm of their exchange puts the audience at ease until one of the friends mysteriously drops dead. Bwog won’t give away the end ( it is a murder mystery after all) but the sudden illogical plot twist will have you boozed and confused. It is, in a word, absurd.
Sarcasm rises and absurdity takes a sinister tone in “Barbituaries,” by Stephanie Neel. Cynicism and adorable old-peopleness create a strange pairing between the entrance of old Marvin (Jonathan Kaplan), carrying a bottle of wine and a tray of prescription pills, and his jaded wife Nina (Hillary Krit). Though Bwog found it a little creepy, the LateNite crowd seemed to enjoy having their heartstrings pulled ever so quietly after a hearty serving of snark.
Snap back to real life, you see on stage your very own seminar table, populated by various irritating prototype Columbia students. Hopefully you didn’t identify with the title character Thomas, portrayed with gusto and excessive finesse by Evan Johnston. But the details, the true juice of stereotyping, are almost too well done for the fuzzy crowd. Erman serves up several completely unexpected and yet perfectly stereotypical outbursts before the class resumes its normal business.
Justin Grace’s pseudonymously penned jewel of the night then hits a sobering crowd straight in the face. Spinning through multiple layers of a play within a play within a play, the lost audience eventually gives up on keeping track of the many characters each actor plays and learns to get lost in the magic of recurring characters like David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon. Bwog was super meta’d out, but must recommend LateNite to everyone if only to see “My Nutty Friends.” Each member of the ensemble executes their random piece of the puzzle with incredible enthusiasm and expertise.
Together they’re nothing short of meta-bulous.