Arts: Recess’ unorthodox humor lightens crowd

Cross-dressing sex fiends, touching man-rabbit romances and depraved improvisational antics – who could ask for anything more in a comedy show? Well, maybe a proponent of good taste, but no one ever said Recess shows are for the weak of heart. Poor taste is their standard, and their application is remarkable.

Despite widespread closings this weekend, which included the postponement of Alumni Weekend, student comedy troupe Recess chose to press on with its schedule. The group performed Sept. 14 in front of a packed house in the Dorothy Marvin Betts Theatre.

Recess is undeniably witty, although mildly insulting, and Friday’s show presented a greater challenge than just being funny. In light of recent events, it seems a daunting task to try to make anyone laugh, let alone a nearly full auditorium.

But Recess did not back away from the challenge. As Recess member Don Pitz explained it, “People are looking to laugh this week. They need an outlet, they need something like this.”

The group came out fast out of the gate delivering unrestrained comedic routines spiced with loud, jolting profanity and outrageous plot twists. The performance featured a mix of pre-rehearsed skits, student video featuring the troupe and improvisational games based on audience suggestions. The mood of the show was light-hearted, and the crowd was eager. They seemed relieved to just sit back and enjoy a few light moments.

Prepared skits touched on the avant-garde, stretching believability at times, but still remained genuinely amusing. Characterizations of a mentally disturbed soda fountain owner and a group of gabbing women were laugh-out-loud funny, delivering slick and surprising one-liners. Recess does not seek to put on a particularly intelligent show but to expand and stretch the realm of lowbrow humor.

The group also played a number of improv games, creating scenes based on audience suggestions. This style of comedy is a dangerous art to delve into, but the group aptly created a number of hilarious scenes out of thin air.

Two Recess members portrayed lesbian nuns having “sexless sex,” which pushed the boundaries of moral acceptability but managed to land on the right side of the line. In the end, the improvisational scenes came out looking like they came from a cranked-up version of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” – a positive comparison for the energetic group.

Recess has for the last few years stood alone as GW’s best-known, and often only, improvisational group. Performances at special University events, including several Colonial Inaugurations, have helped the group gain name recognition and a strong student fan base.

The group plans to carry on, expanding its tradition this year. Members hope to perform at least twice a month this semester. Recess will continue to use the Betts Theatre and may also pick up a few shows in the Lisner Downstage.

Recess is also looking to expand in size this year. The group’s current roster consists of only six members: Don Pitz, Adam Riedel, Wendy Butterworth, Natalie Solomon and Sam Sklaver. The group rehearses Monday through Thursday for up to two hours each night.

Recess will hold auditions this Monday and Wednesday, and the group expects to take on two to three new members. Interested students should meet at 8:45 p.m. in Kogan Plaza and proceed to the secret location where they will hold tryouts. As far as qualifications for new members, Pitz said, “No experience is necessary. You just have to play well with others.”

Recess certainly knows how to play well for others. Their next performance takes place Oct. 19. With a talented line-up and a strong vision, the group is ready to take the war against political correctness to a new and higher level.

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