Live from Cleveland, it’s “PTG Live”

Left to right: Madeline Pollock, Tabitha Raithel, Luke Adelman and Ave Tallarida play a group of sassy cows and Taylor Bruno plays the shop owner at the “Sustainability Sip in the skit “Got Milk?” by Maanyav Gangaraj.
Left to right: Madeline Pollock, Tabitha Raithel, Luke Adelman and Ave Tallarida play a group of sassy cows and Taylor Bruno plays the shop owner at the “Sustainability Sip” in the skit “Got Milk?” by Maanyav Gangaraj.
Courtesy of Ashley Rosinski/Players’ Theatre Group

Players’ Theatre Group (PTG), an entirely student-run organization at Case Western Reserve University, has been executing consistently remarkable productions this semester. Last Friday, PTG held a double feature of “Moose Murders” followed by “PTG Live”—the latter of which I was able to attend at the Maltz Performing Arts Center Jean Kalberer Black Box Theatre. It was the perfect end to an abnormally long week following spring break, exemplifying comedy, creativity and originality at its finest.

“PTG Live” was produced by second-year computer science student Raaghuv Vazirani and featured Lake Effect during the intermission, a CWRU student band currently taking the campus by storm. The tech crew included first-year Robbie Shepherd, second-year Ian Jacobs and third-year Nolan Sayer.

The audience is introduced to the production through Lake Effect’s mellow, calming jazz music, with the saxophone’s strident tone resounding throughout the space. The surprise guest opener, CWRU faculty member Bernard Jim (otherwise known as Bernie), instantly filled the Black Box with his infectious energy. Bernie’s amusing spiels and honest lessons are valuable, and though he undermines his own comedic expertise, his monologue was quite impressive. Students can appreciate his authenticity, as he candidly states, “I’ve learned to assume a Case student is having a bad day, every day.”

The first skit, “Addiction Recovery” by Ave Tallarida, features the intentionally cringy interjections of Jeff (Vazirani) and feeble attempts to retain the professional atmosphere by the therapist (Sarah Roelle) during what was meant to be a support group meeting. The second, “Got Milk?” by Maanyav Gangaraj, serves as a canny rendition of sustainability initiatives. Instead of purchasing dairy alternatives such as oat milk, you can request fresh milk at the “Sustainability Sip” from any of the cows in the background—played by students—although they are amusingly sassy and even have the option to deny orders. What’s more, bartering is included as an option for payment.

In “Pelotron 3000” by Olivia Hovis, the audience find themselves immersed in an ad for exercise equipment, only the dialogue of the TV Overlord (Tabitha Raithel) is eerily concerning, as it reveals private information about Josh (Luke Adelman). Both actors play their parts flawlessly, highlighting how technology can be threatening. “Prospie Weekend” by Lisa O’Brien has Kristen (Tallarida) mentioning the snake pit “out the back’” nonstop, both frightening the facilitator, Kyle (Gangaraj), and intriguing the prospective students. For students at CWRU, the tour’s depiction is all too realistic, with the exception of the out-of-pocket questions current students can only wish they had asked.

As a parallel to the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live,” Mary Coulter takes the stage and presents “The Coultaire Report.” Their slides are humorously displayed by a projector held by club president Macy Dickerson, who was not aware they would be participating, onto white fabric held by other cast members. Updates included a new Chill Box to accompany Sears think[box], the Springfest opener announced as “Younger Sheldon” and iClickers available for purchase on Temu. Of course, a weekly snake pit update is also included. Coulter’s cleverness is clear as they seamlessly transition from slide to slide, perhaps performing even better than Colin Jost and Michael Che themselves.

For those familiar with the operations of theatre, “Tenorpocalypse” by Tallarida hits home. Shepherd plays the infamous “white male lead” who boasts of his admission into the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, intimidating other cast members with his over-the-top confidence and god-complex behavior. Despite his “three-note range,” his suspicious success is to be feared, even as he skips off the stage and accidentally trips. “Grandma Grapple” by Ian Jacobs is a showdown between two elderly women: Josephine (Raithel) and Bertha (Margot McCann). They ridiculously fight for wooden nesting dolls and other tchotchkes, with Josephine throwing some of the goods on the ground and Bertha struggling to retaliate as her back restrains her.

In “The Mastermind” by Ethan Teel, Tallarida’s performance seriously stands out. They play Riley, one of the “friends” of the group who reveals during their hangout they’ve been “a social mastermind” all along, manipulating every single one of them to comply with their schemes. In reality, Riley desperately seeks to embody an invigorating, dubious persona and ends up “predicting” that all her friends leave. Their hilarious line, “I have you downloaded,” sums up Riley’s character well. The audience is then taken to the battlefield in “Troop Jester” by O’Brien, where General Gordon (Roelle) orders his soldiers to trudge on forward, remarking, “We are Americans … we don’t retreat, we just keep digging ourselves into bigger messes!” To help, General Gordon introduces the Troop Jester (O’Brien) who can make you laugh instantly by humiliating the soldiers, spitting bars and enchanting everyone with her moves to “The Harlem Shake.”

“Too Much Snow?” by Vazirani and Mattia Campioli requires no further explanation, especially since its elaboration would be improper for such a review. For many watching live, the analogy felt on point and, surprisingly, was a new one added to the books. The entire skit is obviously just about snow, of course. For the finale, “The Ultimate Bit” by Hovis takes us through Coulter’s particularly hysterical performance as Bartholomule who becomes possessed by the “Broadway devil,” requiring the intervention of the priest (Adelman) and ultimately the death of Bartholomule inflicted by his own mother, Martha (Raithel).

PTG extracts from the abundant talent on campus to provide audiences with a CWRU-themed “Saturday Night Live” episode. Though obtaining tickets for NBC’s own “Saturday Night Live” is rather difficult, PTG produces a seriously accessible and comparable, if not better, version. The skills and gifts students here have are boundless, as illuminated by the success of “PTG Live.” Watch out for PTG’s next productions, “Little Ordinary Things” running from April 5-7 and “Our Town” running from May 3-4, and, of course, be sure to support the many other student performance groups here on campus as well.

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