Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gone in 60 Sketches

The 3rd Floor
November 30 - December 29, 2007


Theater Boy said...

The Oregonian Review

by Grant Butler

In the past few years, the 3rd Floor has emerged as one of Portland's best performance ensembles. With its unique take on theatrical sketch comedy and a strong core of actors, it's consistently delivered shows that strike a difficult balance between zany laughter and heartfelt reflections on life.

If there are doubters out there about this troupe's significance -- or holdouts who still dismiss sketch comedy as some second-tier art form that doesn't deserve respect -- they'd do well to check in on "Gone in 60 Sketches," which opened a month-long run last weekend at Miracle Theatre. The show is the 3rd Floor's most-experimental and complicated show to date, a fast-paced race through 60 comic bits, each of them no longer than a minute or two.

On the surface, that concept sounds like 90 minutes of pointless one-liners -- funny stuff, to be sure, but where's the meat? And sure enough, there are a handful of the 60 sketches, particularly early on, that are no more than one-note jokes. But those stand-alone punch lines are really tangential distractions that are thrown out to obscure the fact that most of these sketches are intricately intertwined threads that weave into a larger story arc by the show's end. A broken-hearted gorilla, a half-man/half-snake super-villain and bumbling cops investigating a murder involving a mime eventually all cross paths, and when they do, it's utterly satisfying.

The eight actors in this production are good across the board. Standing out are Andrew Harris, who enigmatically switches from a homicidal maniac at one point to portray an abusive audience member during a "talk back" session after a play. Jordana Barnes and Deanna Wells are hilarious as a pair of existentialist secretaries with imaginary typewriters. And could there be a better go-to guy than Kevin-Michael Moore when a show's in need of a foul-mouthed carnival clown?

Pulling it all together is Ted Douglass, who acts as a sort of ringmaster for the evening and is easily the heart of the company. He gets the night's biggest laughs in segments about an out-of-control Halloween party and people with annoying cell phone ringtones.

Despite being billed as a "holiday spectacular," there's only one sketch that hints at the season, and it harpoons the greedy intersection of consumer and celebrity cultures. Otherwise, "Gone in 60 Sketches" is nutcracker-, elf- and reindeer-free. Feeling out of sorts because you've OD'd on too many carols and greeting cards? This show will cheer you without the holiday cheer.

Theater Boy said...

The Portland Mercury Review

The 3rd Floor at the Miracle Theatre


At this point in time, I approach every 3rd Floor sketch comedy show with trepidation, afraid that their new show won't be as funny as the last one—because they've been around for a while (like FOREVER), and they're getting older, and everyone knows old people aren't as funny as young ones. But as their current Gone in 60 Sketches amply demonstrates, Portland's favorite sketch comedy troupe still has a few laughs left in them.

Okay, that's an understatement: This is some of the best work I've seen from the 3rd Floor, an impressive feat considering the nature of the show. Gone is 60 sketches, all under a minute, featuring all the absurd costumes and running storylines audiences have come to expect from this troupe. It's a tricky proposition, keeping an audience engaged through so many changes of costume and scene—but these guys are pros, and they do a masterful job keeping momentum going, helped out by a judicious reliance on their always-excellent video sketches.

You might expect such short sketches to be frenzied, hectic affairs, and a few are. For the most part, though, the studied, theatrical pacing at which the 3rd Floor excels is evidenced here, mining the comedic currency of long pauses and awkward silences. There are a few clunkers, of course, but they're shoehorned in the middle of the show, over quickly and as soon forgotten. The ensemble is as solid as ever, with standout performances from Andrew Harris, who seems incapable of delivering an unfunny line, and from Jordana Barnes, who does the creepiest impression of a tiny slave boy that I've ever seen in my life.

This show is like a tutorial in everything that's great about the 3rd Floor: Running gags and ongoing storylines hold the show together, but never distract from the jokes. Some hardcore nerdiness comes through, as does a genuine affection for Portland, and a sense of being rooted both in the culture of this city and in the particulars of its landscape (a video sketch about Portland's bad public art was one of my favorite moments in the show). The Third Floor been around for over a decade now, doing what they do and doing it well, and with 60 Sketches they prove they're just as funny as ever.

Theater Boy said...
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