Thursday, Sept. 16, after an almost two-year hiatus and a last-minute postponement of their comeback show, comedy group Trippin’ On Brix performed “Unlimited Brixsticks” for an enthusiastic full house at Ewell Hall.
The performance, which featured alternating sketch and improv routines, began with a pre-recorded segment starring the “gentlemen of Brix.” Wearing formal attire and speaking stuffily, Tate Stevens ’22, Erik Wells ’23, Josh Mutterperl ’24 and Eamon Raftery-Sweeney ’24 discussed the shortcomings of pandemic safety on the College of William and Mary campus. However, it was later revealed that the sketch was not set in the present but during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The opener was the only part of the show that referenced the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that was significant to several members of Trippin’ On Brix.
“I’m glad that other than the first sketch, we didn’t really do anything like, ‘Isn’t COVID crazy?’ like that kind of SNL stuff,” Wells said.
“That was something we really talked about, that we wanted to have something that acknowledges everything, how crazy it is, and then do a normal show,” Mutterperl said.
The first live segment of the performance was an improv exercise starring the “Bricklings,” first-time members of the group, and Sophie Albimino ’22. Raftery-Sweeney left the room while Erin Cearlock ’24, Mutterperl, and Albimino took audience suggestions regarding the premise of the bit; Raftery-Sweeney was late for work, and he would have to formulate his excuse from the pantomiming of Cearlock and Mutterperl. Before Raftery-Sweeney returned, the group determined that his tardiness had resulted from him pooping his pants on the third floor of Earl Gregg Swem Library with Jesus Christ. Raftery-Sweeney handled the challenge with grace.
“Well,” he began, after watching Cearlock and Mutterperl mime bowel movements for several seconds, “I was having a very rough morning…”
After concluding “Late for Work,” the group performed “ADT,” a sketch about the consequences of an overzealous home security system. Then they shifted to an improvisation called “Director’s Choice.”
“Director’s Choice” featured Trippin’ On Brix senior Megan Rudman ‘22 directing the Bricklings in a film noir scenario. The bit allowed two of the group’s newest members to show off their physical comedy chops. Mutterperl performed well as a man suffering from both rabies and herpes, and Cearlock was lively in her miming of a GoPro camera attached to her rear. “Director’s Choice” was an audience favorite, and while the performances were outstanding, I found I was most impacted by my observations of the Trippin’ On Brix members who were not part of the routine. Julia Savoca Gibson ’22, Albimino, Stevens and Wells watched Rudman and the Bricklings perform from the sidelines, each radiating affectionate reverence. Especially regarding their newest members, Trippin’ On Brix emanated a sense of camaraderie that has been painfully absent throughout much of the pandemic.
“We got a lot of love for the Bricklings,” Savoca Gibson said. “I was so excited to have them there.”
The fourth part of the show, “Olive Garden,” was most relevant to the title of Brix’s performance, though breadsticks were a running gag throughout several other segments. Raftery-Sweeney played a death row inmate who was taking his last meal at Olive Garden and abusing the restaurant’s unlimited breadsticks guarantee to avoid execution, while Rudman, Savoca Gibson and Albimino acted as his horrified companions. The breadstick motif continued in “One Swipe,” which mocked the new meal swipe policy at Marketplace. Wells shined as an uncompromising dining hall employee who was determined to charge a student two meal swipes for adding a breadstick to her entrée. Though he was confined to a podium for the role, his condescending gesticulations and animated expressions made for a commanding stage presence.
With five segments completed and four to go, the Trippin’ On Brix crew maintained their momentum for the remainder of the show, channeling energy from an adoring audience as they showcased their comedic mastery. The final improv activity of the night, “Textual Healing,” was the most reliant on audience participation. It forced Stevens and Rudman to communicate with an increasingly exasperated Savoca Gibson using only text messages from the phones of audience volunteers.
“It’s a really fun one, but it’s really risky,” Stevens said. “It all depends on the audience member having a good text chain on their phone. There were times when Megan was talking, and I saw gold, and then I couldn’t figure out a way to fit it in.”
Despite the difficulty of the improvisation, the segment was met with great enthusiasm. The combination of insight into an audience member’s private life and the group’s fearless line deliveries kept the audience energized.
“This was my first time attending a comedy show at school, and it was so fun to see the community together,” Cypress Ambrose ’24 said. “I loved it and will definitely be back.”
“Unlimited Brixsticks” was a bright spot in a tumultuous start of the school year, and the Trippin’ On Brix crew was practically glowing after the show, maintaining comedic banter as they discussed their performances.
“It’s been a year and a half, so this might as well have been my first time performing,” Wells said. “But seeing all the people out there felt really good.”
“Coming back from the hiatus was a little nerve-wracking, but once you’re onstage, everyone is so kind,” Albimino said.
Besides their comedy, one aspect of the show that stood out was the fact that Trippin’ On Brix was the first comedy group at the College to livestream their performance to accommodate any pandemic-related concerns.
“That’s why we’re the best sketch and improv group on campus,” Raftery-Sweeney said. “It’s lonely up at the top.”