CU Players Present: Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral

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You know those coffins you’ve been seeing out on the steps for the past few weeks? Well apparently the CU Players have decided to finally lay the corpse to rest and have the funeral this weekend … over the course of three days in the Lerner Party Space of all places. Bwog’s Interactive Theater Bureau Chief Jon Edelman was in attendance for last night’s first round of the matriarch’s drawn-out funeral.

Photo via CU Players

Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral brings the concept of interactive theater out of the realm of Italian stereotypes, so prevalent after the success of environmental theater pioneer Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, and into the realm of Jewish stereotypes, a theme more fitting with trends in Columbian comedy.  Beyond that, though, the show isn’t that original. But it is still pretty damn funny.

Here, as in Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, the show incorporates the audience into the cast of players, in this case as the assembled attendees for the memorial service of Grandma Sylvia, matriarch of a feuding Jewish family.  This motley clan is composed of both the dysfunctional members you’d expect (the drunk, the slut) and the ones you wouldn’t (the condescending psychologist, the gay vampire).

The interactive experience begins on the line outside the show, as the family members act as ushers, distribute yarmulkes, have loud arguments, and search for the missing rabbi.  While this technique establishes the characters and makes the wait to get in more bearable, the audience reactions are sometimes unpredictable and not always cooperative: some dutifully played along, contributing reminiscences of the departed, while others did their best to mess with the actors, claiming that they had come to see a play, not a funeral, and weren’t sure who Sylvia was.

The show then moves downstairs into the Lerner Party Space, redecorated as the Helsenrott Jewish Funeral Home. As the “service” begins, with the actors scattered amongst the audience create a steady stream of disruptions.  It’s a long service, but not a boring one, complete with a disastrous recorder performance, a sequined shirt, yams, a catfight, and a marriage proposal.  The interruptions and arguments are mostly witty and well-acted, and Matt Herzfeld, CC ’12, stands out as an awkward Hebrew-Union College student drafted to lead the service at the last minute.

But while the general level of chaos is funny, the play doesn’t have much momentum—there’s no sense that the conflicts and disruptions are building towards anything bigger.  The excitement of the family tension heating to a boil is missing, lost amidst funny bits.  I wanted a humorous, climactic explosion, but the resolution simply slides out.  Nevertheless, Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral is amusing throughout, and well worth seeing before it’s put to rest. The play runs this Friday at 7 pm and 11 pm and Saturday at 1 pm, tickets available at the Lerner Box Office.

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  1. Anonymous

    great show!
    great acting, great directing...very entertaining!

  2. Anonymous

    went last night with friends, it was awesome.

  3. Zomg:

    So fun. So fun. I had a good time.

  4. Anonymous

    the whole cast made it a great time... glad i came to see it.

  5. Anonymous  

    I've never been so entertained at Columbia--good job, you guys! :)

  6. SKYBOY  

    dun... dun... dun... DUN DUN!!!!!

  7. Anonymous  

    So funny (the show -- not the review. This review is pretty awful.)

  8. Anonymous  

    Constructive criticism for this review/all reviewers: Don't discuss things that would apply to any production of GSF. Focus on aspects that are unique to this production: acting, direction, set design, etc.

  9. Anonymous  

    "Things that make you uncomfortable" should be a more common tag.

  10. Anonymous  

    Best funeral ever! Loved it! Great ensemble cast, and tight directing for such a challenging performance piece.

  11. Error

    Herzfeld is CC10 fools. and a kickass dude

  12. Review  

    is pretty dead on. I loved Morgan Fletcher as the psychologist. SO funny.

  13. Anonymous  

    Rachel Leopold as the funeral director had me in stitches..."She already dead!" was brilliant

  14. Anonymous

    I must agree with you...Morgan was damn great in that part, I was laughing so hard I was almost crying!
    And got to agree, that really is a tough show to put on well. And they did such a fantastic job!
    Directing was amazing...Great Job Guys!

  15. Anonymous

    one of the best pieces at Columbia I've seen in a long time.

  16. WTF  

    This review is AWFUL. Only one member of the entire cast and crew is named? Sad. But, hey, what else should we expected from a Bwog theatre review...? Regardless, incredibly talented group putting this show together. As stated in some of these comments, Morgan Fletcher was fantastic. Not a huge fan of breaking the fourth wall, but this showed was fun and witty about it.

  17. Anonymous

    Katrina put on a hell of a performance!

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