This year Bwog decided to make it tradition that the outgoing EIC reviews Latenite. Why? Unclear, but we’re doing it. Alexandra Svokos thusly tunes in.
Unlike M. Jones, I’d never been to a Latenite performance before this semester—which I now realize was a major mistake of my past 3.5 years here. I’ve been impressed by nearly every performance I’ve been able to see in my time here, and Latenite kept up that tradition. With a series of short, student-written/directed/acted plays, there are few other platforms on campus that showcase this many talented individuals.
Each of the works had their own special twist, tone, and draw. Watching the pieces, and thinking about the different crews of people behind them, I couldn’t help but take a moment to mourn that this year’s Varsity Show has an essentially identical C-team to last year’s show. There is so much talent on this campus; it’s unfortunate that in two years most students will only see the work of those dozen individuals.
But let’s stop thinking about what could have been and move onto what was. I sat through both performances on Saturday night: first sober, second decidedly less so (for journalism! —hi potential employers). There were 7 pieces of varying levels of humor, ranging from cleverness to absurdism to good ol’ physical comedy.
Noel Gutierrez-Morfin’s, CC’15, “Amor Escandaloso” initially made me cringe—with the premise of a stereotypical telenovela, my Columbia-trained mind reactively sat there wondering if this was “problematic” or not. But moments later I giggled along with the rest of the audience at the silly antics. Ultimately it felt like a sophomore year Spanish class presentation, funny to a point with somewhat stale jokes surrounding the culture of telenovelas, but the cast had fun with it.
Continuing with the class presentation theme, Rachel Chung’s, CC’15, “The Hanukkah Elf” was reminiscent of a bar mitzvah class play, explaining Jewish traditions and lessons. This is one that absolutely benefitted from the Saturday night prank show: the additions of dark humor details—the elves crushing candy canes and snorting them, Santa saying “bitch why you askin’ so many questions?”—made it feel less like an afterschool special and more like a college comedy show, but it still didn’t quite have the bite it needed.
“Love Approaching the Station” by Madison Seely, CC’15, was a clear highlight of the anthology. Seely had some impressively clever concepts that the actors played up to great effect. The plot was simple but hysterical: the “voice of the MTA” is a young man who can literally only speak in subway announcements. This would not have worked were it not for the insane ability of Josh Cohen, CC’16, to recite the MTA’s classic “there is…a…downtown 1 train…” with perfect timing and inflection. The show was so well written—and relied so heavily on that great writing—that it soured in the prank show, as the man could instead only speak in Kanye lyrics. Cute, but it’s much easier to seduce someone with Kanye lyrics than subway announcements, so much of the humor was lost.
Dead center of the night was the absolutely fantastic “Dragon Juice.” Taha Wiheba, CC’16, played a perfectly droll dragon in full onesie costume, with Jake Chapman, CC’16, reacting in, um, ecstasy on realizing that his lizard is, in fact, a dragon. In both performances of this show, the entire audience was falling over in hysterics. The absurdism was perfect and Wiheba’s ability to stay in character and not laugh was astonishing.
Following this was another unflinchingly hilarious work: “Dance Piece.” A wordless play of a ballet performance—but more kindergarten class than NYCB. The “dancers” pranced about in perfect representations of the kids in these classes, from the overly-serious one to the parent-waver to the omg-I-have-to-peeeeee, thanks to co-direction from Niraali Pandiri, BC’14, and Lisa Maddox, CC’16. The drama and physical comedy was well-timed and executed, leading me to scrawl a dozen “YES”‘s on my 11 pm show notes.
Like “Love Approaching,” “Nick at Nite” by Emilia Lirman, CC’16, benefitted from clever writing that was unfortunately lost with the prank show. In the original, Allie Carieri, CC’15, is an exasperated Dora the Explorer, with impeccable mirroring of Dora’s classic too-cheery and long-pauses-for-audience-to-answer oration. This longer piece had very funny takes on the show, and Dora’s increasing anger was very well executed. The prank show was a missed opportunity, though. They switched Dora to Miley Cyrus, complete with SNL-style accent. In the original show, Dora’s long pauses for audience responses were peppered with some brave soul’s shouting, but I imagine the late show would have garnered more vocal and outlandish audience interaction. Instead we got tired Miley jokes.
Unfortunately, Latenite ended on a weak note with “Goldfish” by James Rodrigues, CC’14. It was a very, terribly slow piece about existential goldfish in a bowl, courageously played by David Silberthau, CC’16, and Adil Habib, CC’16, in bright orange bodysuits, which served as the only funny part of the work.
Still, I’m glad I finally caught Latenite. The anthology was an overall success and a seriously enjoyable showcase of comedy writing and performance on campus. Latenite is a fabulous and supportive theater group open to a variety of newcomers at all levels of experience; we need more of that around here.