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Fleabag Packs O'Connell With Fall Show

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Word gets around. How else could the 100-plus crowd of students, parents, and faculty that crammed into the overheated, over-seated O’Connell House last Friday night be explained? By the size and shape of that crowd, songs of praise evidently continue to be sung about Boston College’s most well-known improv comedy troupe, My Mother’s Fleabag. The group maintained its infamy: the availability of standing room only after 9 p.m. was no surprise and certainly no deterrent to the hordes of seasoned Fleabag fans.

A brief digression into its history: The student comedy troupe is the oldest in the country, founded at BC in 1980. For those unfamiliar with My Mother’s Fleabag, the group’s traditional set includes a series of improv “games” in which one member of the cast often solicits audience participation, asking for nouns or sentences, even sometimes a volunteer, to inspire or aide with the ensuing skit. Usually interspersed throughout these games are several “sketch,” or scripted, comedy acts.

The show was, as it has been in recent years, a lengthy venture. The combination of a two-hour set with the stifling heat of the packed OCH became mildly unpleasant as the show wore on. As might be expected on any opening night, there were a few kinks and stiff spots during introductions and transitions, and the show had its fair share of jokes that just seemed to fall flat. But the high points were undeniably high, and Fleabag delivered, keeping the night lively and the crowd thoroughly entertained. Even at its low points, the show distracted well enough to forget the steadily rising temperature.

The show opened with a scripted parody of this year’s film The Hunger Games – Fleabag directors Bryan Cocchiara, A&S ’13, and Lindsey James, A&S ’13, introduced themselves and the group, and proceeded to tell the audience that they had decided to forgo this year’s opener, asking for an audience volunteer in order to begin the improv. No sooner had a girl from the crowd stepped onto the stage than several Fleabaggers rushed from rooms above, behind, and around the audience, shouting, “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!” The sketch was met with resounding laughter and applause as they moved forward into the show.

The two additional highlights included the main sketch, a playful mockery of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and the British Invasion-themed opera, inspired by the immense media coverage of this summer’s London Olympic games, which highlighted BC student culture through a cleverly revised host of lyrics.

The main sketch depicted Batman trying to stop a bank robbery being conducted by several of the classic villains, while almost nothing being said by the characters could be understood. Batman’s signature raspy speech devolved into throaty garbling as he battled Bane, who sounded like a choking Darth Vader under his mask, in some kind of absurd wrestling match. Meanwhile, the Scarecrow appeared on stage to make satirical comments about his insignificance, and the Penguin waddled around in a monocle hinting snidely about a fourth film. When asked about the inspiration for the sketch, Cocchiara, who described it as his personal favorite, said, “The sketch kind of snowballed out of the genius mind of Don Orr after one day commenting, ‘I don’t understand anything that these people are saying in any of these movies’… It’s fun to poke fun at what you love sometimes, right?” Absolutely. For poking fun at such a well-received film, the sketch was indisputably the crowd favorite.

The Fall 2012 cast consists of the following members, in addition to the directors mentioned above: Molly Marotta, A&S ’13, Don Orr, A&S ’14, Sean Bloomstine, A&S, ’15, Alex Dzialo, A&S ’15, Pat Genovese, A&S ’15, Ben Halter, A&S ’16, Tatiana Schaefer, A&S ’16, and Matt Hession, CSOM ’16. Though the group lost two key members to study abroad – Lou Wilson ’14 and Ceara O’Sullivan, A&S ’14 – and faced a setback in practice as a result of the recent hurricane, it would be a mistake to assume the group’s showcase of talent suffered. The entire cast is, simply put, hilarious. The returning upperclassmen brought their respective eccentricities, humors, and witticisms back to the stage with full force. The freshman additions collectively exhibited an impressive amount of potential and talent, while each individually provided the group with a unique style and creative approach to comedy.

“In my second year as director,” Cocchiara said, “I can truly say that this group is as good as it has ever been, if not better.”

The reactions of the crowd on Friday night certainly agreed. The show was evidence of the group’s endearing unpredictability and timeless ability to make anyone, and everyone, genuinely and uncontrollably laugh out loud. With the return of its two abroad members, Fleabag will surely be on top of its game for the spring.

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