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Bwog’s comedy correspondent, and Saturday daily editor Bijan Samareh, got his first taste of Late Nite, late last night. He tells it from a freshperson’s perspective. You can see LateNite for yourself tonight and tomorrow at 11pm.
When I hear the term “student-written plays,” I dread concept-heavy experimental pieces in which characters recite Shel Silverstein poems while stabbing a manifestation of the internet to death against the backdrop of Marcel Duchamp paintings. After entering the Lerner Black Box last night, however, my preconceived notions were shattered. A hip horde of theatergoers awaited the LateNite Fall Anthology , all chatting happily around an empty stage while “The Ghost of LateNite” was being projected against the back wall. The projection allowed students to text anything they wanted to a designated number and have it displayed to the whole audience. The messages included anything from “___ is so sexy!” to the egregiously lewd. Nonetheless, I was reassured that the show was not going to be taking itself too seriously.
The first performance was “Porn! The Musical!”, written by Alex Katz. The short sketch was a revue of famous musical theater songs with an erotic twist. A group of actors dressed as porn stars switched off verses from “There’s No Business Like Porn Business,” “Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Condoms,” and that’s about as far as I can go. The parodies were nothing short of hilarious and started the evening on a note of laughter.
Next up on the bill was “Reconnecting,” written by Jacob Marx Rice. James, a 30 year old financial consultant, meets up with Julie, a girl he liked in middle school. The catch is that Julie brings a lawyer to the reunion who reveals a contract James signed when he was 14 stating that if he and Julie were still single at 30, they would get married. James is in disbelief as Julie pushes him for marriage and the lawyer validates his obligation. While the premise was promising, the conflict was only sustained for so long, as the characters began to talk about their past, plot was disregarded for exposition and a few one-liners worth a chuckle.
Conceptually one of the strongest, the last performance before intermission was “Space Bears,” written by Katie Craddock and [Bwog’s own!] Megan McGregor. The story took place in an alternate reality, where bears have fled earth for space after persecution. Berrie and Hunnie, a couple on their way to meet Hunnie’s parents, reminisce on the human cruelty that caused their exile while nervously preparing for the meeting. When they arrive, Hunnie’s father is revealed to be a greedy capitalist human with an English accent that Hunnie’s mother is sick of dealing with. After Berrie and Hunnie out themselves as vegetarians at the dinner table, a beastly family fight ensues. The play had a very solid set, costumes, and script, and left the audience entertained while they questioned whether or not it was an allegory for something.
Intermission ended and the second act began with “Learning When to Shut Up,” a short play by Dan Aprahamian. The projection on the back wall during the performance read “Learning When to Shut Up or Stan Explains Vaginas to Two Girls,” The whole play was silent, except for Stan shouting “That’s not a Vagina!” as he used an array of different tools to explain the concept to the two girls. While the audience let out a few laughs, it became very awkward to watch as the gestures and tools Stan utilizes to achieve his goal get more and more explicit.
Watching history’s greatest villains try to upgrade from the ninth to eighth circle of hell was the premise of “Ninth Circle” by Dan Marx. In the show, Hitler tries to study for his Bar Mitzvah, Stalin has become a capitalist, and Osama sings Yankee Doodle Dandy, all in order to get in good with Satan. They are visited by a suprise guest, who gets them thinking about their fate. Though the actors did a fine job of characterizing the villains and held the audiences appeal, the humor was somewhat expected.
The show’s trajectory took a serious turn during Jacob Marx Rice’s “Poor Tom”, which was an alternate take on the story of King Lear. The audience observes the adventures of Tom and Gloucester as they struggle to gets grip on their lives. Much more humor was peppered into the Bard’s story, which was really interesting for people who had read the play, however, the conflict became a bit angsty at times.
The finale was “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” by Alex Katz, Steele Sternberg, and Matt Martinez, and was by far the best of the night. Remember watching the travails of Ash, Brock, Misty, and Pikachu on Pokemon? Take that and add twenty years- Ash is a pothead, Team Rocket will do anything for some pills, and Brock and Misty can’t take their hands off of each other. The second the lights went up a surge of excited nostalgia pulsed through the audience, and the show’s sharp script evoked both laughter and screams.
I left the theater very pleased and proud knowing that Columbia has a theater company that can have as much fun on stage as the audience has in their seats. The writing of Alex Katz was certainly the high point of the shows, and while not every script was the tightest it could have been, every artist present took risks and tried new concepts that should be admired. The actors and directors certainly knew what they were doing, and executed their work with ease and comfort. Freshpeople and beyond! Forgo the beer pong and go see some theater this weekend! Or, if you are feeling avant-garde, combine them during Saturday’s traditionally more influenced performance!