by Marcina Zaccaria . . .

Returning to Off Broadway takes that tenacious skill that improv theater demands.

Vern, produced by Jacki Thrapp, Matt Giroveanu and Stephanie Driscoll, is a combination of impromptu song, and quick shout outs to neighborhood places in the Village.  The Two-Act structure calls for suggestions from the audience, making a pianist and a team of dedicated performers listen fast before showing what they’ve got, on the spot. 

The truth is, there’s little drama, but some very clever bits of comedy.  With live piano, Director/ Musical Director Jody Shelton keeps the tunes flowing for the audience of over a hundred guests.  The cast holds a spontaneity that is impressive and a zest for performance that’s easy to recognize.

There are some standouts.  My favorite sketches included interpretations of what we look like at the ATM and musings on what it’s like to be a robot today.  Matt Giroveanu presents with an appealing type of glee.  Julie Feltman is one tough diva, gutsy and fearless, leading the team to be just a bit louder.  Mikey Cakes, part of Vern since the group’s inception in 2014, is like many of the other improv artists who’ve all taken a stop at the PIT before finding truth in song.  Kiki Mikkelsen held her honest charm, while admitting in a dating sequence that she would be a lesbian.  With Jeff Scherer, a former performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and Daniel Tepper, an NYU Tisch alum, the moments to step on stage seem stronger and better than ever.  Rachel Bouton rounds out a cast of improv masters, who would look much more comfortable somewhere like Cafe Wha? then they would belting out songs on the cruise ship circuit.

The Players Theatre held a unique place through the pandemic, opening a bookstore in the lobby and keeping NYC villagers strolling past, even through the toughest months of shut down.  With this re-opening, drinks are served.  Audience members, asked to wear masks while not imbibing, are welcome to laugh out-loud at the moment-to-moment antics on stage.  The Lighting Design, though spare, is flashy, and the sound design is delightfully amplified, providing the potential for great noise to be heard.

Great to be back Off Broadway.  Vern: Off Broadway! will be running again at The Players Theatre, located at 115 MacDougal Street, NYC. Next performance September 18 at 8 pm Tickets