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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Boris’ Kitchen shows more than the same ‘Old Shit’

Published: October 14, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered together in solidarity to celebrate Boris’ Kitchen’s “Old Shit Show.” (If only the Alumni Lounge could fit that many people!) People slowly trickled in, filling in the floor and the few chairs lining the room. The audience was comprised of students and parents, as well as former Boris’ Kitchen members. It was clear that Brandeis’ only sketch comedy troupe has quite a loyal following.

The show’s director, Briana Bensenouci ’12, came onstage first. She introduced herself as Talya Gale and welcomed us to the “the Old Shit Show, where we provide you with the shittiest shit possible.” Bensenouci directed the show and also serves as president of the troupe; the name “Talya Gale” plays on the names of Paul Gale ’12, vice president of Boris’ Kitchen, and Talya Davidoff ’12, the secretary.

All of the sketches performed were “old shit” that had been performed in previous Boris’ Kitchen shows in the group’s 22-year history, with the oldest sketch performed that night being from 1987. This is in contrast to their regular shows throughout the year that feature only original material and involve more costumes and set designs.

The “Old Shit Show” is the black-box version of a Boris’ Kitchen show. Besides some costuming (or lack thereof during certain sketches) for comedic effect, the actors wore their iconic jeans and black Boris’ Kitchen t-shirts. This, coupled with the Alumni Lounge’s size, gave an especially intimate setting. It felt like Boris’ Kitchen was performing to a room of their friends instead of an audience of strangers. The only tech came in the form of Nora Mitnick ’12 and Cathy Messier ’12 who were in charge of music and lighting. The “Old Shit Show” felt like the audience was being given a sneak peak into the final rehearsal.

The first sketch of the evening was alliteratively titled “Sexually Speaking with Dr. Seuss.” Actors sat in the audience wearing costumes that mimicked the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss, played by Ben Setel ’13, sat at the front and received “calls” from the actors in the audience. Their calls detailed unfortunate sexual troubles in rhyme. It is clear that a lot of thought went into each and every show, and this sketch is a prime example of that.

Another of the extremely well-received sketches was “Make it Snappy” which featured Bensenouci, Davidoff, Rachel Benjamin ’14 and Peter Charland ’14. Even before a word was said, the audience began erupting into laughter. There were four people on stage in skirts, one of whom just happened to be a man wearing a wig in order to fit a company of mean girls.

Some of the most well-received sketches were those that played on stereotypes. Whether they were stereotypes about Brandeis or other parts of the world, having the known comparison helped bring out the laughter.

One example of this was “Tax Tips with Vinnie and Rocko,” featuring Yoni Bronstein ’13 and Charland, with a guest appearance by Gale. They played on the Brooklyn stereotype by speaking with a heavy New York accent, with loud screaming, mob connections and threats of brutality playing in the background.

“Pregnancy Test” showed several Brandeis students going to the health center to see Nurse Ryland, their maladies ranging from sprained ankles and bad coughs to asthma. For boys and girls alike, the nurse

thought it evident that the problem was pregnancy. It wasn’t until a student came in who was likely pregnant that the nurse changed her tune and said it was something else.

Since the troupe is university-based, several sketches revolved around life in the classroom. One portrayed an organic chemistry student as being offered “life or death.” A grading mistake sends a student off to the back room. Another sketch shows a math class taught by Shakespeare, played by Christopher Knight ’14. In the math course, Shakespeare gives a hypothetical question about two trains about to collide that is unsolvable. When one of the students fails to complete the question and takes it a little too far, she ends up killing herself. Both of these sketches end with death, an unsubtle metaphor for the constant stress that so many students feel on a day-to-day basis.

One of the main reasons for putting on the “Old Shit Show” is to show off the new members (or “newbies,” as the Boris’ Kitchen members call them). Michelle Wexler ’15, Michael Frederikse ’15 and Karen Lengler ’15 stole the show in “Limbo and Limbo.” While the sketch wasn’t the funniest of the bunch, the acting was impeccable. They are securing the strong future of Boris’ Kitchen.

Of course, the show benefited from seniors like Davidoff and Bensenouci.

In addition to her secretarial role, Davidoff acted as the assistant director.

“This was my first time directing,” Davidoff said. “I really loved this new venue for my creative input. I loved working with Bri[ana] and the cast.”

Davidoff says that she intends to continue directing in the future as it is her “new passion(fruit) in life.”

For Bensenouci, the immense time and energy commitment was all worth it.

“Sometimes you wonder ‘Wow, we just spent 20 minutes figuring out the logistics of making this kick to the balls look realistic, does it even matter?’ But then, when that kick in the balls happens and the audience get a kick out of it you realize, yeah, that 20 minutes did matter.”