Sketch comedy troupe overplayed

Underplayed Theatre Company struggles toward originality

Underplayed Theatre Company hits and misses at sketch comedy with their show UnPilot playing at the Wellington Street Theatre.
Underplayed Theatre Company hits and misses at sketch comedy with their show UnPilot playing at the Wellington Street Theatre.

Underplayed Theatre Company’s UnPilot, their first official production as an AMS-affiliated club, is a little underwhelming.

Television-themed, the show features an awkward pre-show, delving into the oft-unexplored realm of meta-sketch comedy as a few of the cast members mingle with the audience, cameramen and each other, presumably in an attempt to set a “before the camera rolls” atmosphere.

The show’s primary challenge is highlighted during its filmed opening, which features the cast doing a Simpsons-inspired dash to a couch set to the Simpsons’ theme music—the show has a serious issue with originality.

Trying to emulate successful sketch comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live in format and topics and occasionally seeming even to borrow the jokes themselves, UnPilot doesn’t leave its mark on its audience, who can’t help but feel that they’ve seen most of this somewhere before.

Evidence of the theatre company’s youth can be seen in the arrangement of their sketches: one of the weakest pieces of the night opened the show.

This was followed by another less than amusing sketch, “Aladdin’s Palace Burger.” The comedy hinged primarily on the Disney-themed names of items on the menu and the waitress’s heavy lisp, and not so much on any discernable plot.

Many of the scenes seemed to be similarly missing a climactic point of action. Though often filled with funny characters and witty one-liners, they lacked the foundation necessary to keep the sketches vibrant and the audience entertained.

A prime example of this was an initially hilarious New Yorker-inspired sketch where two Old Boys discuss vocabulary, the good old days and their immense wealth in the most pretentious voices conceivable. Their butlers’ butlers are also quite humourous, but the sketch ultimately fizzled out because no conflict arose to propel the action forward.

The show manages to keep momentum despite some slow-moving sketches due to a recurring (and priceless) speed-dating sketch featuring some of the most horrifying potential dates ever invented. The show ties the first act up nicely with a song entitled “Dating: It’s Awkward.”

At intermission, perhaps in an attempt to copy SNL’s comedy-and-musical-act formula, musical guest Dengar Roth took the stage. Named after a Star Wars character, dressed in ridiculous outfits and playing classic rock covers, it was difficult to tell whether or not they were intended as a continuation of the night’s comedy acts.

Though starting off slow, the sketches generally became more entertaining as the night went on, reaching the show’s apex of hilarity with a “Leave Rojo Alone” short that had the audience rolling with laughter.

It’s here that UnPilot succeeds.

Commenting on topics familiar to Queen’s students, the audience and cast were united in blithe mockery of the place we call home and the things we talk about. In a “Weekend Update”-inspired news segment, UnPilot dealt with current events in the world and on campus with wit and irreverence.

“Today Karen Hitchcock visited the construction sites on campus. Due to the damage caused to her ears by the blasts, she will likely listen to even fewer student opinions,” one cast member quips.

Another winning sketch dealt with the familiar character of the Facebook stalker, taking it to creepier, and more hilarious, heights.

Underplayed gets more things right than wrong in the second half, ending the show with the playful song “We Just Robbed You,” making light of the somewhat steep $10 student ticket price.

The show’s far from perfect but displays definite promise. With some serious tuning and strong, independent and original direction, the Underplayed Theatre Company could easily make a not altogether unnoticeable mark on the campus comedy scene.

UnPilot runs until Sunday at 8 p.m. nightly at the Wellington Street Theatre. Tickets are $10 for students and are available at Destinations.

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