Anthony J. Piccione
- New York Theatre Critic
As some of our readers might remember, last month I had the chance to review a show called What’s New, Groovy Gang. It was my first introduction to the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble, the long-running comedy group that has been thriving in the indie theatre scene for nearly a decade now. Recently, I had the chance to catch their next show of the season, and as much as I enjoyed their last show, this one proved to be even better.
The Diabolical Dr. Fiend’s tagline – “It’s Not Easy Being Evil When You’re Working 9-5” – pretty much says a lot, if not all, of what it’s about. Dr. Fiend – whom baristas frequently mistake for being “Dr. Friend” – works at a mundane office job with his coworkers, where the evil Mr. and Mrs. Smiles – an eccentric duo of sibling businesspeople – take over the company, and make some very radical changes that make the entire staff unhappy. Unfortunately for them, Dr. Fiend has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, and with the help of his coworkers, is able to cause them trouble, much to the delight of the audience.
The creator of this show’s concept, as well as its leading actor, is IRTE veteran Curt Dixon. You can easily tell that this is a concept that Mr. Dixon enjoyed putting together greatly, given how he clearly relishes the role of Dr. Fiend throughout the performance, milking nearly every moment he can out of this amusing parody of evil that he’s put together. While not always the sole focal point of the show, his performance is clearly a big part of it right from the beginning, and the concept behind this show is certainly one that ripe for great improvisational comedy.
Among the rest of this cast of performers, in addition to Mr. Dixon, I found Michael Hauschild and Izzy Church to be particularly entertaining as Mr. and Mrs. Smiles. Each of them delivered performances that I found to be highly energetic, and over the top in the best possible way for a show such as this. The rest of the ensemble consists of Robert Baumgardner, Jamie Maloney, Connie Perry, Heather Johnson and Cheryl Pickett, all of whom also deliver enjoyable comedic performances. During the show’s interlude, IRTE musical guest John Munnelly was also a very nice touch to the overall show who delivered some fine acoustic performances.
It’s clear to me after seeing this show and the one from last month that dark comedy and pseudo-spooky, cartoonish humor is what this theatre group specializes in, and they do it in a way that demonstrates their years of expertise and feels more polished than one might expect from the typical comedy troupe. Given what I saw in IRTE’s first two shows in 2018, I’ll be curious to see what their next two shows this season might have in store. Until then, there are still a few more performances of Dr. Fiend this coming weekend, as of this review, so check it out while you can.
“The Diabolical Dr. Fiend” – presented by Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble – runs at the Producers Club from April 20th-28th. For more information, please visit www.irteinfo.com.