On Friday and Saturday evenings, a murder most foul took place in the O’Connell House as part of Superdead, the Creative Committee for Enactment’s annual celebration of all things zany and improvised. Upon entering the dimly lit mansion in the middle of Upper Campus, audience members were warned that the show was an interactive one in which the characters might directly address the audience, in which case showgoers were encouraged to interact with them. The hybrid improv-cum-play was an enjoyable experience, minus a few hiccups that occasionally ground the otherwise laugh-stuffed affair to a cringe inducing halt.
The plot was a loosely held together set of vignettes surrounding the superhero Muffin Man, a cocky character played to great laughs by Davy Keefe, A&S ’13. Strutting around with undeserved bravado, Muffin Man served as the head of a league of heroes who included characters like Sales Man, Business Woman, and Woo Girl. Upon the kidnapping of the town’s mayor (“Who will give me my key to the city now?” bemoaned Muffin Man), the heroes decide to investigate the crime. As in most superhero movies, the culprits were a cast of villains whose ranks consisted of characters (many of whose names were funnier than any of their actual performances) like the Fabulous Silver Fox (a hilarious Ryan McGrath, A&S ’14, playing equal parts Tim Gunn and Sassy Gay Friend) and the Notorious MILF. After Muffin Man himself was discovered, allof the heroes combined what little deducing powers they had together to catch the criminal.
Many characters were woefully underdeveloped or underutilized, which only made life easier when it came to choosing which ones to follow when it came time to move about the house. As the Cougar, Sam Simmons, A&S ’12, showed immense promise. Her elongated snarls and pawing buffoonery should have been given more time in the spotlight. Likewise, Law Man (portrayed by Abby Peterson, A&S ’11) and Fire Marshal (Donald Chang, A&S ’12) were given an amusing storyline that never quite lifted off of the ground.
Other characters just fell flat entirely, never quite rousing anything more than a mere chuckle out of uncomfortable audience members. A subplot surrounding the Announcer Man’s desire to join the league of heroes, as well as his incessant desire to spill the beans as to the murderer’s identity, was as annoying as it was unnecessary. On the other hand, characters like Communist Man and Tekcop were given next to nothing to do other than stand there with their cohorts. Although the CCE was clearly pressed for time, it would have been nice to see the two characters do more than shuffle their feet around.
The major issue with Superdead was its timing. Knowing full well that the event was a blend of improvisation and actual scripted material, one would hope that the performers would’ve spent more time ironing out the obvious kinks in the material. At times, multiple actors found themselves talking at the same time, never quite recovering from the cacophonous effect. At other times, people on stage riffed for what seemed like an endless amount of time on inane and unintelligible material that never lent anything to the plot at hand. While there is something to be said for improvisation, more time should have been spent advancing the plot that audience members were slowly beginning to lose interest in.
Some cast members stars shone too brightly for the show to contain, often lifting the loose plot to sidesplitting levels. Emma Missett, A&S ’13, consistently brought the house down with her brilliantly phrased “dumb” comments. Her quirks and eccentricities as an improviser are taken right from Kristen Wiig’s playbook. Just like Wiig on Saturday Night Live, every word from her mouth was a sheer delight (just to point out one in particular, her droll, “I call my breasts Mary Kate and Ashley, but sometimes I get really confused about which one is which,” brought the house down).
Likewise, Joe Allen, A&S ’13, dominated the show with his nasally Weather Man, a down on his luck character who defied what could have easily been a weak caricature. From his “occasional ability to sometimes predict the weather” to his fighting skills in the villains versus heroes portion of the show, Allen showed a willingness to let himself go. By embracing the ridiculousness of the show, both Allen and Missett deserve serious commendation. Their performances demonstrated the star power that they both possess, and hopefully will continue to demonstrate in shows to come.