On October 18, at the PIT (Performance Improv Theater) in Gramercy, the audience was overrun by Sarah Lawrence students as New Greta took to the stage. Assembled by seven former members of last year’s award winning Lampoon troupe, this new improv group of recent Sarah Lawrence alumni just recently started playing shows together in New York City.
Maybe it’s because describing comedy to a secondhand audience is reductive, and can’t make you laugh in quite the same way bearing witness to it can, but I’m having a hard time putting words to the totally unique, dynamic chemistry that made last year’s iteration of Lampoon so successful. Of the seven members — plus two more who haven’t graduated Sarah Lawrence quite yet, and are, for now, ‘featured’ performers — each one brings a distinct personality and range to the table. Watching New Greta on Sunday night was a testament to how well these performers work together. It was also a hilarious reminder of the special things that happen when these guys get up on stage. But if you missed it, don’t worry. New Greta appear to be in this for the long haul.
We all know that college is a transitory experience. We come, we stay a while, and then we’re gone, much sooner than we think. And yet, if we’re lucky, we meet a handful of people who, by the end of it all, are the kind of friends we’d like to keep for life. These are the people who make it hard for us to imagine that our lives might have taken a different turn, that we might never have ended up where we did. These are the people who make us feel like we ended up just where we were always meant to be.
There was never any doubt on Sunday night that we were watching just those kinds of friends have the time of their lives together up onstage. A year removed from college, the fact that this group has managed to stick together and remain so good at doing what they love feels like a small miracle. Between reimagining a civil war reenactment as drag show, a funeral service wherein three of the attendants wonder how long to wait before hitting on the deceased’s wife, a deadly surf camp, and much, much more, there was no shortage of inventive material.
But more than that, good improv — or maybe even ’great improv’ —it seems to me, is a function of how well its performers know each other. After all, we’re all hilarious when it’s just us hanging with our friends. But that kind of camaraderie — in improv and in life — doesn’t just happen overnight. Sunday night was, in many ways, the culmination of years of hard work and goofing around. But in another sense, this wasn’t a culmination at all. It was the beginning of the next chapter.
Between sketches New Greta employs musical interludes that allow its members some time to change costume, swap out for one another, or just plain catch their breath. There was one song that played, inexplicably, over and over again: Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson. At first, it seemed an odd choice, a cheesy relic of a bygone era, the kind of song you sing to yourself in the shower. And the interludes never seemed to reach the chorus, instead returning over and over again to the kind of dumb da da dum da da refrain that bookends the song.
But then, after the set ended, the whole cast of New Greta came back onstage for a bow. The chorus exploded, and then there was Maddie, Max, Sam, Mallory, Anna, Jacob, Patrick, Sessa, and Bucey; all shamelessly singing along to every word. Watching these old friends belt out the tune, arm in arm, hand in hand, that silly melody from way back in the day had suddenly put a lump in my throat.
Comedy and sincerity don’t easily go together, but in that moment, New Greta proved themselves hilarious and heartwarming all at once. And back in the bar after the show, over a few well-deserved beers, it was easy to see that whenever the cast of New Greta get together, they always will be.
by Anthony Verone '17