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GRAVID WATER in Time Out New York

Mar 13, 2015

What's My Line?
A theatrical experiment comes of age.

Finally, someone has found a way to bridge the gap between New York's comedy and Broadway scenes that doesn't involve writing campy lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes. The monthly show Gravid Water-the next installment is Thursday 20 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre-pairs serious actors with improvisational comedians to perform scenes from straight plays. Here's the catch: The actor memorizes his or her lines and sticks to book, while the comedian has never seen or read the play.

"A lot of modern acting theory is improvisational, because real human interaction is too nuanced to plan out in advance," says creator Stephen Ruddy, who conceived the show in 2004 after noticing similarities between his studies at the UCBT and at the Atlantic Theater Company. "I thought, If you put these two things together, there'd be a lot less conflict than one would guess." The result is hilarious-and not due to audience schadenfreude from watching performers stumble and fail. Instead, you get the joyous laughter that comes from discovery. In a scene from After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo, actor Kate Hess mentioned the art she'd brought home. Improviser Anthony King responded by labeling Hess's character a kindergarten teacher and the art nonsensical finger-painting by her students. Unbeknownst to him, her next line of dialogue was, "I'm a terrible artist," which led to a huge laugh when King said, "Wait-those pictures are yours?!?" Suddenly, the mother in this scene was struggling with more than just her marriage.

"Even if the improvisers are familiar with the play, it doesn't matter," explains Ruddy. "It so quickly becomes a different scene." By virtue of its location, Gravid Water-which Ruddy named after a phrase he liked in a Flann O'Brien book-first took root in the comedy community. In the past three years, the show has slowly grown in notoriety; now it regularly sells out and features the city's top improv talents, including Dan Bakkedahl, Christina Gausas, Michael Delaney and Tara Copeland.

Recently, though, the little-show-that-could has also garnered attention from the Great White Way. Through word of mouth, Ruddy started receiving calls and e-mails from noteworthy Broadway stars-excluding this month's performance, he's moved the show to Mondays to accommodate their schedules.

"I don't want the actors to just be straight men," Ruddy says of the project's appeal to scripted performers. "The hope is that the show will inject some of the immediacy of improv into their performances." The November installment featured Sarah Saltzberg and Jared Gertner (both in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Joel Karie (The Lion King) and Tony Award nominee Jonathan Kaplan (Falsettos). Superstar Marc Kudisch (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Assassins. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) is slated to appear in January.

As in a certain classic commercial, the performers get peanut butter in each other's chocolate and vice versa, exploring ground they never could have in pieces strictly scripted or made up. The more unpredictable the marriage, the funnier. During a scene from William Inge's The Mall, Peter Gwinn, as the improviser, mimed fiddling with something on the wall. Then he turned to Ruddy, the actor, and asked, "Can I trade you a new dollar for this old one? The jukebox won't take it." Accustomed to working with props, Ruddy pulled out his wallet and handed Gwinn a real bill. Unnable to suppress a smile, Gwinn exchanged the buck for his imaginary one, saying, "Okay! And here's yours!"
NY Shows

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JEN & ANGIE on Page Six

Mar 13, 2015

Jen & Angie in Plane Crash!

OMG! Have you heard? Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie somehow ended up on a plane together and while they were flying over the Pacific Ocean the plane crashed! No one knows if they're OK or even alive... except!

Relax everyone; the Jen and Angie in question aren't the real stars, but two actresses from the Upright Citizens Brigade who are starring in a new show that asks the question: What would happen if Jennifer and Angelina were stranded on a deserted island? Talk about a brilliant season of Survivor!

Jen & Angie stars Sara Chase as America's favorite Friend and Christina Casa as the hottie homewrecker. The ladies stepping into these stars' shoes sat down with to talk about getting into character, their love of Jen and Angelina and what they would do if Brad Pitt came to a performance.

Working Jolie-style shades and pouty lips, Christina credits repeated viewings of Tomb Raider for her dead-on portrayal. Sara's preparation to play Jen starts on a deeper level. 'I go to an angry, bitter place,' she says.

The difference between the two A-listers hasn't escaped anyone's attention, especially Christina's. 'They're so easy to make fun of. For Angelina, everything is exaggerated: lips, breasts, voice,' she says. 'Angelina has no insecurities whatsoever, whereas Jen is a pool of insecurity.' And Sara adds that it's easy to dip a toe in those waters considering everything about Jennifer's divorce was so incredibly public.

There's a lot to love about these ladies though, Sara says. And while they do have similarities ('They both have the body fat of a third-world child') their differences are what makes telling this particular story so much fun.

But would Brad see the humor since his doppelganger, a dummy, spends the entire show sitting at the foot of the stage unconscious? 'I have dreams about Brad coming to the show,' Christina says. 'I would love it if any of them came.' Get your own ticket to the show to find out who is victorious in this battle of the babes.
NY Shows

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JEN & ANGIE Reviewed on Off-Off-Online

Mar 13, 2015

Best Friends Forever

I can't recall the last time a thirty minute piece received the kind hype that Jen & Angie has. Jen and Angie were recently featured in a big story on, and they're not even real. Let me explain.

Jen & Angie is the latest long-form sketch by the renowned comedy and improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade. UCB has launched or shaped the careers of several well-known comedians, including Saturday Night Live veterans Horatio Sanz and Amy Poehler. The place is crawling with talented and hard-working comics whose greatest dream is that Lorne Michaels will show up in the audience and pluck them from obscurity. At its theater on the northern edge of Chelsea, UCB showcases an often dizzying array of nightly offerings, presented on a schedule almost military in nature. It's not uncommon to see a long line of patrons standing in the frigid cold on West 26th Street at 9:00 p.m., patiently waiting for those inside to vacate the 7:30 show. This scenario repeats itself throughout the night. If you have to wait on line, Jen & Angie will be worth it.

The sketch goes like this. Somehow, Brad Pitt (played by a mannequin), Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston find themselves on the same ill-fated airline flight to Antigua. After losing an engine, the plane goes down on a deserted island. Miraculously, there are three completely intact survivors - guess who they are.

Because Brad remains in a persistent vegetative state due to the spell under which Angelina has placed him (and because he's a mannequin), it all comes down to Jen and Angie, mano a mano. Christina Casa is hilarious as a Morticia-like Jolie and Sara Chase has nailed Aniston's mannerisms and sugary sweetheart qualities. Jen sings the Friends song, replete with claps, when things become too much for her. Angie, for her part, is oblivious to the festering hatred that Aniston harbors for her.

Together, they are forced to hunt the island's wildlife for survival. The island becomes the perfect vehicle to send up Jolie's purportedly exotic lifestyle, and Ms. Casa squeezes out lots of laughs with her aloof and clueless affectations. When a hungry but squeamish Aniston asks a feasting Jolie how a marmot tastes, Angie replies, "It is great. It tastes like condor." Angie never misses an opportunity to taunt Jen with her motherhood. Because of her endless quest to adopt the planet's children, Angie can't even remember the name of her biological child, referring to it as "the white one." Obviously, co-writers Casa and Laura Buchholz follow the tabloids. But, you don't have to be up on the latest Hollywood gossip to enjoy Jen & Angie. If you go, the sketch will be teamed up with another UCB show to provide a good ninety minutes of laughs. The night I went, it was paired with Seven Fights, an entertaining collection of skits by Will Hines and the animated Matthew DeCoster, whose physical brand of ridiculous comedy reminds one of Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer.
NY Shows

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