Sketchfest Review: Hill/Jones, Don’t We Boys, and Knuckles & Tits @ Dark Room THeater, 1/21/2012


From Spinning Platters

January 21, 2012
By OJ Patterson

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Dark Room Theater, a charming, janky barge, landlocked in the heart of the Mission. People are packed to the hypothetical rafters, forced to face their obvious claustrophobia to catch a glimmer of comedy. Young professionals, holding burritos, are held in anticipation (and melancholy due to confiscated beer).

Barbara Gray, bonafide protagonist and event host, discouraged comparisons. All the descriptive shortcuts of appearance, voice and subject were sliced in half as Gray cut the night to the quick. The Los Angeles-based comedian commanded the stage with natural, straightforward, brash, hyperbolic statements of outrageous implications. When she said “f*ck”, she meant it sincerely, never playing her jokes with feminine irony or exaggerated sensuality. Armed with her book of madlibs (recurring theme), Gray warmed the crowd up by being down to earth.

Did this night have sketch comedy? Yes it did, in the form of Knuckles & Tits, a male-female duo out of Los Angeles. The team produced no frills, conventional scenes often lampooning pop culture. Entertaining and clownish, Knuckles and Tits had a hard time gaining momentum; costume changes ate their set, leaving large lulls in laughter. They stuck to their guns (literally) yet each sketch expressed a limited pallet with repetitive moods and humor cheesier than a Casio keyboard.

Barbara, now sporting bunny ears (recurring theme), solicited more suggestions for her game of madlibs before introducing the Don’t We Boys.

The eponymously named Don’t We Boys hit the ground sprinting with singed clothes and twigs in their hair. Michigan’s first action/adventure comedy trio made no consolations, demanding the audience to keep up with their left-field, carefree, absurdist brand of parkouresque performing. The imaginative Don’t We Boys skillfully sequenced an exciting collection of punchy vignettes. Some scenes were whimsically dark, self-referential, and yielded as many gags-per-second as a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film. Some scenes were funny flashes, the giddy equivalent of a “one-liner”. The group benefited from a supernatural rapport, understated overstatements, a diversity of media, a loose arc filled with holes, the self-awareness to point out said holes, and the childish commitment to jump down those holes.

The next group received an eloquently epic introduction from Barbara, herself cumbersomely wearing a foam Centurion breastplate (and bunny ears). Admittedly the artists wrote the flattering introduction themselves. Surprisingly, they completely lived up to their own hype.

Dave Hill and Matt Jones are a champion improv team from Los Angeles. Their crowd sourced inspiration: “kumquat”. The seed of “kumquat” quickly germinated with mutated urgency as the duo manifested a world of awe-inspiring imagination. Hill Jones showed exceptional timing, unbelievable memory, beautifully pointed instinct and chemistry. In addition to “peopling a room”, the technique of vocalizing multiple people in a room, the improvisers embodied many entities simultaneously, shifting swimmingly from each character. It was amazing to watch a person interact with their apparition, their partner and their partner’s shadow concurrently. The spectacle reached deeper than Eddie Murphy and Industrial Light and Magic; style serviced the actors’ lo-fi illusion but Hill Jones’ comedic complexity was the feature attraction. A father and son relationship of “expectations” evolved to involve rivals, servants, alcoholism, radio ego, affluent id and boisterous bourgeois idiosyncrasies. Relationships were proudly dynamic; ridicule and love pronounced poignant peculiarities that reflected Hill Jones’ own bond, which seemingly bordered on telepathy.

Costume-crazed Barbara Gray, donning a curly blond wig (and bunny ears and Centurion garb) finished her madlibs to close the show. The results are probably too vulgar to post here but they certainly could have taken an eye out.

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