Review: This Is Not a Sketch Show: A Sketch Show
This clever, self-referential show aims to rent out the UCB Theatre as an apartment.
Wed Feb 8 2012
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Hey, reader. Yeah, you: Looking for a nice apartment? You might want to talk to Andy Stevens, the Realtor (and aspiring comedian) who seems to be behind This Is Not a Sketch Show: A Sketch Show. He's got this really hot property, perfect for a couple. Okay, it's the UCB Theatre. Yes, he's heard all the complaints: It's a comedy theater, the electric bill is nuts, and there are all these people watching what you do and laughing. But it's a renter's market, and after all, not everyone will see you in your living room because of the UCBT's obscuring "rustic pillars"!
TINASS: ASS is like a Matryoshka doll booby-trapped with spring snakes: Once a tentative pair of prospective tenants (played by Alison Bennett and Jon Gutierrez) is ushered onstage by the aforementioned Realtor (Brandon Scott Jones), they hem and haw about renting it as Andy asks them to sit and watch him perform in a sketch show. Immediately, Andy brings on another duo (writers Moskovciak and Stadler) who are clearly shills, delighting in the space's inconveniences. This couple agrees to watch the show too. From there, Andy's team offers up wizards, overly rhetorical speeches and creepy police officers, all while the audience watches the couples watch the show. For his part, laughs or no, Andy will get his property rented.
TINASS: ASS is an incredibly self-referential exercise, but it's not a masturbatory one. The big cast is universally good—especially Jones as the smarmy Andy—but the real star here is the writing. The intricate structure gives the impression that the show might collapse like a house of cards at any moment; watching the young writers and their cast navigate this is part of the fun. Barriers erected between the onstage worlds are less walls than membranes through which jokes can freely drift. And all of the postmodern cleverness on display serves the show's comedy; when the original couple realizes being onstage changes their behavior, transforming what might be a standard argument into a performance la The Honeymooners, it's funny and it adroitly furthers the story. Not everything hits—a bit about a mysterious nature-sounds CD, for instance—but with such a well-made pitch, somebody is bound to rent the place.