Three to watch: Dennie & Sharp and Luisa Omielan
Keep your eye on a UCBT sketch duo recreating Forrest Gump and a U.K. stand-up who looks to Beyoncé as a muse
Wed Feb 19 2014
Matt Dennie and Josh Sharp
With some sketch shows, a great concept pushes its writers and performers to new heights; others just rip off Forrest Gump. The latest from Matt Dennie and Josh Sharp is one of the latter. Their new Gump promises to re-create Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks’s whimsical 1994 collaboration “accurately and in its entirety,” with a caveat: The “show is not accurate and is only 30 minutes long.”
Just like the performance itself, the young duo in question is both slavish in its passions and tongue-in-cheek in its delivery. After meeting in an improv class in 2011, they started writing sketch, making Web videos and began hosting a variety show for nontraditional comedy called Cool Shit/Weird Shit. Their first full show was 2013’s Maneater: The True Story of the Champawat Tigress, a hero’s journey about a hunter and “actual Wikipediable person,” Jim Corbett, facing a savage beast. Though the face-off they describe is historical fact, the show features Theodore Roosevelt rapping over DMX and the titular beast inviting audience members to do some Bollywood dancing.
Likewise, the plot of Forrest Gump serves only as a loose framework onto which Dennie and Sharp hang all kinds of disconnected bits that play to their strengths. Always up to shake his gangly frame, Sharp straps a white feather to a headband and flounces through some facsimile of the film’s opening sequence (which follows a CGI plume through the air to Forrest’s feet). Though Dennie is a natural straight man, he can also go big: In a vignette on a bus, he plays about a half dozen broad characters in a scene-stealing whirlwind. Also, there's a fistfight on a moon—an event audience members are not likely to remember from the original movie.
Gump confirms what Tigress hinted at: The joyous Dennie and Sharp don’t drag cynicism onto the stage with them. They don’t shy away from strange comedy, but make sure to pack great punch lines. And as in the scene in which an unimportant character reveals he is going horseback riding, and that his name is Christopher Reeve, the pair’s combo of smarts and over-the-top silliness rescues bits from any tastelessness (upon his exit, Reeve announces he’s “the strongest neck and spine in all of Hollywood!”). These talents will serve them well, whether they continue to spoof Tom Hanks movies exclusively or not.—Matthew Love
Gump plays is at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Thu 27.