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ISSUE 120 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 3/23/2007

Bearded Men cause laughter in the Lair

By Cody Venzke
Variety Editor


Friday, March 23, 2007

On March 16, the Bearded Men improvisational comedy group invaded the Lion's Lair. The group's title may be a bit of a misnomer, however; the Moorhead-based troupe of college-aged comedians had only one bearded member. The men came out strong, putting on an hour-long show for an audience of about 40 people, entertaining with slapstick humor and the occasional moment of keen wit.

The show began by setting an air of grandeur as the group filed in to the sounds of blaring trumpets and rolling drums (recognized by most as Twentieth Century Fox's opening fanfare). Immediately, the group began with a rehearsed skit warning of the dangers of spring break. According to the group's narrator, "five out of every 15 students will die over spring break . . . take a look at the person next to you, and the person next to him, and the person next to him. That's a lot of people." The comedians mock-pummeling one another as the narrator droned on roused some eager laughter from the audience.

Then the improvisation began. The first two skits involved classic improvisational gags: being forced to re-word previous lines at the command of a whistle and re-enacting the previous scene faster and faster. For the most part, the group found its appeal here in frantically throwing one another around the stage from awkward position to awkward position. Nonetheless, the slapstick comedy managed to invoke giggles and, at times, full-blown laughter.

Some moments of the show revealed the group's humorous wit. In a game titled "Lines from a Pocket," two of the comedians were forced to act out a scene  this case, two mob bosses purchasing prom dresses for their daughters  while randomly pulling predetermined lines from, well, their pockets. The two capitalized on their collective wit, some well-timed random lines and overall excellent acting to bring a steady stream of laughter.

The remainder of the show's acts swung back and forth from the slapstick to the witty, with help from the audience in suggesting scenes. While the occasional innuendo or one particular reference to peeing kept the audience easily entertained, the group kept true to its comedy of manners as well.

Members sparred back and forth. In one game titled "Objection, Your Honor," the group was divided into two teams, with each team trying to gain control of the scene by pointing out the mistakes of the other. The scene  leprechauns attempting to order at a restaurant  was suggested by an audience member. Again, the group relied on its wit (after it was pointed out that leprechauns don't use footstools, the crew promptly responded with a "foot-toadstool"), its comic antics and, of course, wonderful characterization. Their acting, Irish accents and dancing jigs included, made the performance much more entertaining to watch and to hear.

The show ended with a somewhat off-color but enjoyable reenactment of Cinderella, appropriately titled "A Bearded Fairy Tale." The Bearded Men took the old story and gave it a whole new life. There was something uniquely beautiful and rather funny about seeing Cinderella whine and watching the mice plod around like thugs.

Overall, an hour with the Bearded Men was well worth the time, and about the right time, too. The show offered a quick escape for some laughs without becoming too long or too strenuous. While perhaps not the funniest group imaginable, the comedians offered a good balance: wit, farce, talented acting and audience participation. The group genuinely enjoyed putting on the show, and it showed. While their name may be somewhat less than accurate, should the Bearded Men ever visit St. Olaf again, I would recommend a trip to see them. It's an hour well spent.

For more information, as well as clips and performance dates, visit www.beardedmenimprov.com.





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