The cover of the Frosh Revue 2001 program displays the sentence, “If you’ve ever had a stomach cramp, then you know what it’s like to watch Frosh Revue.” I assume that the line’s writer was implying that Frosh Revue inspires nonstop laughter, but at times during the show, the alternate interpretation did not seem far from the truth.
The show itself was composed of 11 skits broken up by three songs. Traditionally, the creation of the show follows a strict collaborative structure. The basis for each sketch is formed through improvisational exercises conducted by the first-years, the best of which are selected by the directors and given back to the performers for fleshing out. The fully written skits are then edited and refined by the directors and performers until they reach an appreciable level of quality.
With so many steps and contributors in the writing process, one could expect that the night would be filled with madcap antics and witty banter, and yet such memorable moments were all too few. I do not mean to suggest that there were not some recurrent highlights. Specifically, Raphael Cruz ’05, Pete Holland ’05 and Liz Suda ’05 all gave enthusiastic and dynamic performances in such roles as a forbidden beer purveyor, Odysseus and a pair of over-enthusiastic parents. Even so, these actors’ charisma was not enough to cover for the lack of innovative material in much of the show.
The most noticeable failing was the script’s reliance on tired stereotypes like Jocks, Nerds and Drunken Fools. While Ari Crystal ’05’s geeky character may draw a chuckle with his hunched posture and lines like “I’m allergic to dirt,” repetition of these same gags yielded diminishing audience response. Some may argue that because such humor is “tried and true”, it appeals to a wider audience, but given the show’s supposed focus on ridiculing the absurdities of life at Williams, it came as a disappointment to see so much predictable sitcom fare presented by such a talented cast.
The three “Walk of Shame” sketches serve as a good example. In each skit, two nerdy students, played by Nate Kolar ’05 and Chloe Turner ’05, watch people returning to their dorms and rate them via some arbitrary system. Admittedly, the first time the two shouted “BONUS!” and gave each other a high-five for discovering some unexpected twist, I couldn’t help but laugh. Seeing the exact same format repeated twice more only detracted from its ability to surprise and thereby to amuse the audience.
“Laundry,” a sketch which chronicled the final moments of some socks in a washing machine, seemed particularly uninspired. Perhaps the suggestion of communist socks may have seemed funny initially, but when translated into a full-length skit the gag quickly lost direction. I would credit Lili Zimmett ’05, Turner and Crystal with finding many interesting positions while simulating the motion of clothes being washed, though spouting lines like “touch my heel” and “socks unite” provided little in the way of entertainment.
The skit entitled “Admissions” also seemed to lack clear direction. At the most basic level, the entire piece built up to the final realization that the student interview was actually being conducted at Amherst. The writer or writers seemed torn between focusing on the interviewee’s mother’s obliviousness to his academic ineptitude and presenting the interviewer as entirely random. The result was quite confusing. By the time Stephen Dobay ’05 ended the sketch with “Welcome to Amherst,” the audience’s laughter was noticeably hesitant.
Thankfully, the directors concentrated the most clever writing towards the end of the show, in the beat-styled “Spring Street Blues” and Odyssey parody “Journey to the Log.” I must admit that I am a sucker for beatnik humor, but even taking that into consideration, drawing in Jared Fogle with regards to Subway and adding some self-referentiality when the performer “can’t rhyme” a verse both came as welcome surprises. Amy Shelton ’05 was exceptionally strong in this capacity, delivering her lines in an unflinching deadpan while strutting about in mock seriousness.
The final sketch chronicled the journey of “Ody” as he attempts to reunite with his girlfriend at the Log. Though not necessarily insipid, the overt references to Homer’s work, such as naming a seductive a cappella group “The Sirens,” could have been replaced with something more inventive. These instances aside, the writers handled the material gracefully.
Ody, played by Holland, is unabashedly short for Odysseus, as his parents were “Classics majors.” In order to escape a one-eyed drunk, Ody distracts her by pointing out a fictitious beer. When the drunk states her inability to see it, Ody replies “It’s in your blind spot.” The Bill and Ted-esque exclamation of “Epic!” was a particular delight, as was the use of “I find you very attractive” from Touch and Go’s song “Would You.” Holland’s portrayal of the “straight guy” was admirable, and complemented his ludicrous encounters well.
Frosh Revue 2001 was not a bad performance. The actors were able and the directors experienced, but the a distinct lack of biting material through much of the program undercut any attempt at greatness. Considering the quality of last year’s writing, I was expecting the same, if not better, quality of satire.
There were times when the writing reached this level; unfortunately, these times didn’t constitute the majority of the show, and even the performers’ obvious passion for the material was unable to make up for its stale jokes. However, at least for the actors, there is always next year, in the form of directorship of Frosh Revue 2002.