LateNite Theatre presented the first showing of its fall anthology last night. Bwog’s own Peter Sterne reports.

An NYC Late Night Subway Map

Last night, LateNite presented a series of six short plays written, directed by, and starring members of the Columbia community, as they have for the past 15 years. All of them were quite funny, though they varied in tone from laugh-out-loud hilarious to almost dark comedy. Some were just short sketches based on a central idea, while others were full-fledged short plays.

The opening play, “The Haunting of Our Lives,” written by Augusto Corvolan and directed by Steele Sternberg, examined what happens when a demon tries to haunt an apathetic loser. Despite the simple premise, it was very entertaining to watch Dan Aprahamian remain completely oblivious to everything and everyone around him, from Alex Katz’s suave but increasingly frustrated demon to Hannah Ceja as his terribly under-appreciated girlfriend. The ending is fairly obvious, but the journey there is a treat.

Another popular play was “Lost Manuscripts.” Written by Brian LaPerche and directed by Zack Sheppard, this show has no plot. Instead, the actors all play drunken versions of Shakespeare brainstorming ideas for his next play. The actors are a mix of KCST and improv types, and it shows as they deliver quick sketches of classic plays that are short, vulgar, and pitch-perfect in their middlebrow Shakespearean satire. Who else could summarize Taming of the Shrew as “Bitch get trained!” or call the end of Othello a “pillow fight”? By the time the actors run out of Shakespearean parodies and tackle everything from Waiting for Godot (“He never fucking comes!”) to Inception (BWAAAAANG!), the audience is in stitches.

In a similar vein, Alyssa Lamontagne’s “Don’t Teach Archery (Lest You Become the Target)” mocks Ocean’s Eleven-type caper movies and soap opera drama. It also makes great use of music. The centerpiece of the play is a scenario, set to the tune of “Mission Impossible,” where various stereotypical assassins (a ninja, a sexy Russian, a bombs expert, etc.) work together to assassinate the English king and prince, with the Mission Impossible theme blaring in the background. Perhaps the best scene occurs when the prince’s archery teacher (Kendale Winbush) and the queen (Lida Benson) find themselves attracted to one another. While romantic music swells in the background, Winbush and Benson express the melodrama of the scene to a truly absurd degree. Throw in a great finale, where the assassins try to execute Winbush with a bow but struggle to do so until he teaches them how to hold it properly, and you’ve got one hilarious show.

While all of the plays were humorous, some of them are smart and funny in equal measure. “Heteronormative,” written by Jacob Rice and directed by Andrea Lopez, gently pokes fun at the stereotype of Columbians as overly self-conscious fans of ridiculously postmodernist social science classes. Jessie Cohen plays Izzie, an undergrad with an internal monologue full of self-doubt who takes “The Fallacy of Gender” and develops an interest in a stereotypical carefree “cool” male classmate, played by Max Banaszak. Cohen’s spectacular performance highlights the tension Izzie experiences between her belief that gender is a fallacy and her growing desire “to do incredibly inappropriately heteronormative things” with her new friend. As the focus of the class shifts from the pretentious language of the teacher, played by Tara Pacheco, to the relationship between Izzie and her “seat buddy,” it suggests that love is possible even at Columbia. The surprise ending, though, turns the moral of the story on its head. Throughout, this play is smart and funny in equal measure.

“Parental Involvement,” written by Erica Drennan and directed by Jessie Cohen, deals with a similar theme. Shira Albagi plays a counselor at a parent-teacher conference at an ultra-liberal high school who refuses to judge or discipline any students on principle, yet still feels a student has transgressed by having sex with a teacher (as her visually evocative hand gestures imply). As she struggles with this problem, the aggressive Type A parent, played by Colette McIntyre, of the student just leaves once she realizes the school is relying on her to punish her daughter. Although the play is quite funny, it is also the most serious.

The final play of the night was “The Adventures of Scott Maxwell Part III: The Unsolvable Dilemma,” written by Mke Kennelly and directed by Kennelly and Victoria Ugarte. Co-president of LateNite Zack Sheppard commented after the show that “we usually do something very strange or experimental for the last play,” and this play certainly fit the bill. The play, which takes place around 30 years from now, is both a great parody of Scott Pilgrim and a commentary on life at Columbia from the perspective of the future. The play’s plot is very difficult to follow, especially once time travel is introduced. A bit like “The Wire,” there is not much helpful exposition; the audience is expected to follow the dialogue and figure out what’s going on for themselves.

The LateNite Fall 2010 anthology will be performed again tonight at 11 p.m. and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. in the Austin E. Quigley Blackbox Theater on Lerner 5. Free tickets are available from the TIC.