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Improv comedians bring laughter to Wilson College

August 29, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With no script and no memorized lines, but lots of input from the audience, a cast of seven actors created numerous comedy sketches Saturday afternoon at Wilson College's Thomson Hall.

With the help of costumes and suggestions from the audience, characters such as Esmerelda the Emu, Oglethorpe the Australian plumber and Chiquita, who was obsessed with bananas, came to life.

Some of the characters were reminiscent of "Saturday Night Live," while other sketches were based on "Survivor" and "American Idol."

The husband-and-wife team of Jenny Kreyl and Mike Shoeman of Life Artists Production Company in Philadelphia brought the improvisational comedy they call Round 2 Tournament of Comedy to Chambersburg.

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"We're trying out the interactive comedy experience in this area to see if we can build a following," Shoeman said.

"You will determine the fate of our many different characters," Shoeman told the 30 people in attendance.

At least two of the characters, Gertrude the Hun, an annoying telephone operator, and Aspernella, a compulsive cleaning lady, were carried over from last month's first local performance.

For a warm-up, the cast performed a taxi driver set, in which the actors frequently changed parts, destinations and costumes.

All the actors moved easily into diverse roles. Laura Sweeney played an ever-smiling Barbie, with mannequin-like movements and a perpetually chirpy outlook. Later in the show, she was Simon, the pessimistic judge on "American Idol," then Gretel in "Fairy Tale Mishaps."

Bubbles, a gum-chomping, clueless character with long blonde braids, was played by Jeff Wine, who also portrayed Paula Abdul in the "American Idol" sketch.

Thirteen-year theater veteran Eric Hurd of Hagerstown, who currently is in rehearsals for the role of The Professor in the Chambersburg Community Theater's production of "Gilligan's Island," played the Australian plumber with a realistic accent, then became Reggie Reggae and later Hansel and Gretel's mother.

Jordan Houser, 14, of Chambersburg sat in the front row with friends and gave suggestions for various scenarios when called upon by emcees Shoeman and Jessica Rave. He went up on stage to portray one of the judges in the "American Idol" sketch. Houser said he has no experience on the stage, but that participating was fun.

Kelsey Happel attended on her 14th birthday to watch her sister, Lindsey Happel, perform.

Rave, of Chambersburg, said she has worked with most of the cast members for a long time, including eight years in community theater with Kreyl and Showman.

The rapport among the cast members was apparent as they joked about Ann Davis being typecast as a witch and Lindsey Happel as a bird.

According to Andrew Sussman of the Cumberland Valley School of Music, most of the cast either are alumni or teachers at the school.

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