Review: Needs Improvment Showcase
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Enthusiastic theatergoers filed into the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium before the performance started. Most of the audience members sat in the first 10 rows of the auditorium as soft music played in the background, giving the vibe of a chill, intimate coffeehouse show.
The Needs Improvment show on Friday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. was a light, relaxing way to ease into the weekend.
The show opened with the ensemble, all clad in plaid button-down shirts and jeans, weeping as they walked downstage carrying senior Alexander Blanton to depressing piano music. After a few moments, however, the mood completely shifted as all of the performers yelled happily in unison, “Welcome to Needs Improvment!”
In the first activity of the night, junior Phineas Hilliard stood upstage center and played God, while the rest of the ensemble stood on either side of the stage, eagerly awaiting their chance to perform. Needs Improvment teacher Mark VanDerzee took suggestions from the audience for the subject of the activity, eventually deciding on “Barbie.” Hilliard directed the other actors in a variety of scenes relating to Barbie, including a look into how the Barbie creative team designed the new 2017 Barbie, the new Ken running for office (played by junior Nathaniel Liberman), and the various social issues that created tension between Barbies and humans.
Another highlight of the show was an activity entitled “Reconstruction” in which six actors took the stage, splitting off into three pairs. Each pair did their own separate scene until eventually, the three scenes intertwined into one scene. The scene, guided by the audience suggestion “Republican National Convention,” involved Ted Cruz, played by senior Miki Lazowski, nervously preparing to address the crowd at the Republican National Convention while his assistant, played by junior Damini Gopal, was trying to calm him down. Meanwhile, two adoring fangirls, played by juniors Ceci Cipullo and Emma Grinspoon, were throwing a party for Cruz and offering him cigarettes.
VanDerzee said that he always liked to challenge his students by putting one activity in the show that they had never done before. This time, the activity was called “Scripts.” Junior Clara Levrero randomly chose one script out of VanDerzee’s hand, and the rule of the game was that the only words Levrero was allowed to say had to come out of the script. Levrero, Hilliard and Blanton crafted a scene based on the audience suggestion “three knights on the quest for the Holy Grail,” and the humor of the scene was mostly based on the fact that Levrero’s lines had virtually nothing to do with anything that was happening.
The activity “Cloud Atlas” involved the audience suggesting four different time periods and locations, one of which had to be in the future. The actors had to craft a scene that encompassed all four time periods and locations and somehow linked each one to the next in chronological order. Needless to say, the scene took some hilarious turns, from the invention of the necklace in New Orleans in 1903, to the 1975 inventions of standardized testing and college essays in Virginia, to a young man being accepted to North Pole University in 2016 and attacked by the abominable snowman, who was really Mariah Carey, to Mariah Carey becoming an Olympic swimmer alongside Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The final activity of the night was called “CD Compilation,” and it involved the actors making up songs, complete with mouth percussion and doo-wopping, based on a given theme. Building off of the audience suggestion of “Discarded Emo Songs,” the actors improvised hits such as “My Flower Died, But I Got A New One,” the a cappella version of “Me, Myself, and I” (not by G-Eazy, senior Gracie Western noted), and the Jamaican dubstep rendition of “My Really Cool Hat.”
Overall, the Needs Improvment show was the perfect way to spend a Friday night out with friends. Also, this was Needs Improvment’s charity event, so half of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Planned Parenthood, and 66 cans of nonperishable food were collected for donation to the Brookline Food Pantry. Be sure to catch Needs Improvment’s next performances at A Cappella Fest on March 17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 18 at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.