The Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble is back. This group of stage and film artists has come together for another season of quick-wit hi-jinks.
Hi-Jinks??? Who uses such a word in the 21st century? They sure do. This series of long-form fun is brought to you by their childhood.
The Groovy Gang Adventures is a very thinly veiled tribute to Scooby Doo and the mystery solving teens of the 70s and early 80s, complete with the stock guest characters: the talking animal (in this case a gator); the old millionaire, the eerie mystic who everyone thinks will be the villain in the end, but is actually a red herring; the actual villain; and so many others in this retro repertory.
The agile ensemble of Robert Baumgardner, Nannette Deasy, Alex Decaneas, Curt Dixon, Jamie Maloney, Danielle Montezinos, Jeff O’Leary, and Isabelle Owens set the stage brilliantly with mood music (if you can call the Archies mood), and homage to the famed Scooby Doo chase montage, the “mysterious” locale they blunder into, and the famed vaudeville style double takes all on Gotham City Improv’s really lovely stage. They deftly add a lot of topical humor (Curt Dixon’s hysterical character, Talcum, was a consistent laugh inducer), mondo-sexual innuendo (morphing into downright pornographic from time to time ) and – undoubtedly thanks to their own stage training – excellent comic timing. The humor, no matter how silly and seemingly childish, possessed a wit and private-joke delivery. The best example is a thread that starts innocently discussing how a gator ages and turns into a social commentary on the youth culture and how the previous generation feels the need to takes steps back in order to belong – at least that’s how it seemed. Robert Baumgardner should get special mention for his spot-on bayou style accent and the group’s founder, Nannette Deasy, possess a laudable amount of stage presence and the delicacy needed to not be a scene stealer. One doesn’t realize how funny her walk and talk really is until she drops it to say good night to the audience.
In the middle of all the improv, another retro trick was employed – the musical guest. The clever and sardonic, Jessica Delfino arrives to strum out songs with some truly envelope-pushing topics – like a folk song about suicide. It would be easy for some to miss the mark and insult the crowd but Delfino’s manipulation of the topic plus a Bob Newhart wit (a more modern comparison wouldn’t work with all the retro going on) made each number more hilarious than the next.
IRTE is still innocent however, as you can see the microscopic reactions they all made when a joke fell flat or got an abundant laugh when not expected – but this only made the intelligent crowd more apt to be on their side.
The razor sharp IRTE is humor for the thinking man – and woman. Come for the laughs – there’s a test on it afterward.
Their season goes through the summer with a veritable Night Gallery of sketches (a more modern comparison wouldn’t work with all the retro going on). Check then out at http://irteinfo.wix.com/irte.
Amy M. Frateo is an actress and blogger. She usually writes on cabaret and jazz and blues groups. Her theater reviewing began in the old TheatreWeek and continue in online pubs like Drama-Queens.