7th Grade laughs you to death

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March 2, 2007

4:34 PM

7th Grade Sketch Comedy puts on unique performances. The group’s shows are stories; recurring characters walk in and out of sketches, revealing different facets of their personalities in every new situation. While the troupe thrives on absurd humor and stretching the boundaries of reality and taste, its shows are grounded by the fact that we get to know all of the ridiculous players.

p. We tend to believe more readily in a character we’ve seen before than in one who has been thrown on the stage to make one joke, never to be seen again. The interconnectedness of the group’s sketches always leaves the audience feeling satisfied at the end of the show. While there are great individual performances, the troupe’s shows work as excellent ensemble pieces.

p. 7th Grade’s most recent production, entitled “7th Grade Loves You to Death,” is set in a small town in Iowa. A group of characters have gathered to celebrate the commemoration of the town’s bell.

p. After preliminary sketches introducing all of the individual personalities, the plot evolves into a whodunit. Characters are murdered as the show progresses; while many sketches that don’t revolve around this murder mystery at all are thrown in at random, including a hilarious mixed-up call to a sex hotline.

p. An hour of fresh and funny material is a very difficult feat to pull off (MADtv has been unsuccessfully attempting to do it for years). 7th Grade succeeds. The first few sketches of the production dragged a bit, making the viewer wonder if this performance would be on par with past ones. The actors, however, eventually rose to the occasion, delivering clever sketch after clever sketch, all coalescing into a sidesplitting performance that made the false start a distant memory.

p. The show was very similar in style to a Robert Altman film — quick and funny dialogue uttered by absurd characters, irrespective of a definitive plot. It is the audience’s privilege to see how these familiar faces respond to the diverse environments in which they are placed.

p. Particularly memorable characters were a foreign mystery writer, a local radio DJ sporting an afro, a baby-turned-police officer and a driving test robot.

p. 7th Grade loves to exaggerate things, be it an absurd personality trait or offensive and vulgar dialogue. The troupe likes to shock the audience. Expletives flow freely, no topic is out of bounds and the tension can be cut with a knife when a particularly sensitive subject is broached. Sometimes this type of humor can ring hollow — like an early sketch about chlamydia that is more disgusting than funny — but, more often than not, the effect is rapturous laughter.

p. The writing throughout this latest show is superb and ingenious. Who knows how they thought up this stuff? The costumes alone provoke laughter (especially that of the FBI agent), injecting little mannerisms into the characters and making them that much funnier.

p. 7th Grade has done it again. Somehow the group continues to come up with creative new material that eclipses even any production of the regular mass media. They’ve mixed up the formula a little bit this time, leaving out the pre-taped video segments, but the show is better for it. Those taped bits had always interrupted the flow of past productions. The live act is much more powerful and entertaining. 7th Grade has produced something brilliant: a memorable performance that lives up to the high expectations associated with this talented group.

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