Topical as ever, Frosh Revue delivers comedic look at freshman life

Friday, October 16th the 1998 edition of the Frosh Revue held its debut performance at Adams Memorial Theatre to a reasonably packed audience. The show consisted of twelve skits that detail the stereotypical absurdities of the freshman experience. Each skit arose from a series of improvisational exercises taken by the cast and subsequently shaped into a final product by the cast and directorial board, led by Revue alumni director Seth Earn ’01 and assistant director Jason Greenberg ’01. Also assisting the production are musical director Pat Eagan ’01, choreographer Melissa Vecchio ’01 and stage manager Phoebe Geer ’01.

As it has been in years past, the 1998 Frosh Revue was a decidedly mixed bag. Many skits were clever and funny, while others were hardly amusing enough to compete with their banality. The dichotomy between the wheat and the chaff was not clear cut: often, one skit would exhibit a series of quality jokes right next to some total misfires. The performance was, however, well-acted: the first-year performers showed the stage presence and enthusiasm necessary to put across the moments of deserving humor.

The skits, and the actors, benefited particularly when the humor extended beyond collegiate cliches to more universal subjects. An especially strong example was a skit wherein two JAs inform one of their freshmen that they are splitting up, but will still both be there for her. Ultimately, the two JAs struggle to inform their freshman of the situation and go off on obsessive tangents while the incredulous freshman asks about party invites.

The skit smartly plays on differing concepts of divorce and family, constructing them from the absurd foundation of the JA-freshman relationship being compared to that of parent and child.

It’s a good skit in that it takes a familiar aspect of freshman life and turns it into something surreal and unconstrained. In this vein, a skit portraying a Mafioso family visiting the head’s daughter at college begins with promise: the stereotypical accents are well performed and the situation is nicely elaborated.

But then come the banalities, and the college setting soon becomes the background for an extended cliche with no fresh material in between. In under five minutes the skit rolls from Papa Mafioso meeting his daughter’s love interest to what part of Italy the young wasp is from to cement shoes to the unfortunate fellow’s required demise due to design’s on the daughter’s virtue. On cue the daughter halfheartedly complains to her Dad of his always doing this. Ugh.

A particularly disappointing skit was the grand finale, “Ya, Ya, You Betcha,” a ripoff of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.” The revised version is merely a pastiche of unoriginal stereotypes inserted between choruses. One verse scored some points by taking advantage of the rhyming qualities of certain male anatomy, but the cheapness and obviousness of the comedic theft – song structure, melody and all – dampened the humor.

Aaron Berman ’01 started the evening off with a solo set of lounge jazz; throughout the evening he accompanied the Frosh Revue’s musical numbers and filled in the interludes between skits with renditions of familiar tunes such as “The Piano Man,” the theme from Sesame Street and “Days Like These,” the theme from Lee-Hom Wang’s ‘98 The Bite That Burns. Berman’s interludes added a jocular mood befitting the evening’s festivities. In fact, the Revue did well to set the mood, even going so far as to fill the program with humorous pseudo-biographical paragraphs describing each performer.

It was these bells and whistles, coupled with a set of compelling performances, that lifted this year’s Frosh Revue even though the humor itself often flagged. It may not be Monty Python or Kids in the Hall, but when have you seen John Cleese or Dave Foley highlighting the trials and travails of being a freshman at Williams College?

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