In the Piano Row Multipurpose Room on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Emerson comedy troupe Stroopwafel, provided a much-needed escape from the stress of midterms with their audience-driven brand of improvisational humor. Sharp, witty, and fun, their first show of the semester electrified the audience.
Founded by a group of Emerson students at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands, Stroopwafel takes its quirky name from a Dutch pastry. According to the troupe’s Facebook page, Stroopwafel is notable for being the campus’s only shortform improv comedy troupe, which relies on audience participation and the troupe members’ quick wit to keep the momentum.
Throughout the hour-long show, the members jumped seamlessly from one interactive game to the next, resulting in an eclectic, attention-grabbing spectacle. Stroopwafel opened with the stream-of-consciousness-style game “Monologue.” The audience-provided word “scissors” inspired an awkward trick-or-treating story that became a strangely funny cancer diagnosis in only a few minutes. In another sketch, “Ding,” a couple’s conversation went from tooth brushing to doll collecting, culminating with the boyfriend’s confession of having an affair with his girlfriend’s mother, who later turns out to have died.
In “History Repeats Itself,” the troupe performed the same scene of a man purchasing marijuana in a plant store in three different time periods: modern day, Ancient Greece, and the Roaring Twenties. During a fight, troupe member Manny Jaquez said, “I am going to paint this onto a vase!” after taking a video with his cell phone only a few minutes before. Stroopwafel remained consistently funny during these digression-heavy sketches.
Much of the troupe’s appeal lies in the cast’s ability to create funny and believable characters at the drop of a hat. In one Oedipus-inspired sketch, a mother and son’s relationship became amusingly awkward after spending the night together. The clueless father in the family, played by female troupe member Erin Berry, stumbled around oblivious to the new sexual dimension between his wife and son, asking repeatedly, “Can I get you a sandwich? Just a fun little sandwich?” His repeated attempts to spark romantic interest between his son and his son’s lab partner added a dimension of irony to his character. In another sketch, “elimination,” a husband revealed to his wife during their anniversary dinner that he was having an affair with their waiter and intends to run off with the man to Tahiti.
The sketch was performed three times, each with one less performer, until the entire dinner scene became a one-man show. Another game involved a couple in a Target store and featured troupe member Anthony Masters reading random lines from a script as Eric Berey improvised the other half of the conversation, creating a funny and interesting relationship dynamic.
In “Danceteria,” troupe members played contestants on a dance-centered reality TV show, and had to improvise interpretive dances based on objects suggested by the audience, including a highlighter, sandwich, and Band Aid. By round of applause, Eric Berey’s character “Rob,” a socially awkward Portlander and Apple employee, won with his comically creepy dance “Porcelain doll.”
Overall, Stroopwafel put on a show that was both hilarious and imaginative, and the troupe members’ quick wit and ingenious improvisation kept the show at a fast pace. The troupe will take the stage again at 8:00 pm on March 26 in the Little Building Cabaret.