Late Night Players
Thurs. @ 9:30 p.m., Charleston Ballet Theatre; Fri. @ 8 p.m., Stars at the American Theater
Are you a logomaniac? The dictionary definition of the term is: "One who is obsessed with words, talking." The four Brandeis grads who call themselves the Late Night Players are proud logomaniacs who take their affinity for the English language and blend it with sketch comedy, topical humor, and a little something they call a "dance-off" to create an unpredictable melange of mirth that's taking over colleges across the country.
At last year's Charleston Comedy Festival, the Late Night Players had audiences rolling with their localized anagrams (they spend much of their van time amusing each other and massaging ideas for each custom-tailored show), their pointed parodies of dubious public figures (or should we say "Dubyious"?), and cast member Seth Reibstein's remarkable worm-dancing skills.
When Aaron Kagan, Andrew Slack, Zach Sherwin, and Reibstein graduated in 2002, they were determined to turn the Late Night Players, which was already a hit around campus and the Boston area, into something more than just good times to remember in the rueful throes of middle age.
"Between summer of 2002 and the summer of 2003, we were just fumbling around and figuring out what we were doing," Reibstein says. "By fall of 2003 we were touring pretty substantially and by the next summer, we were all doing this full-time."
While it's certainly not rare to see a group of ex-students in their mid-20s crisscrossing the country in a van, they're usually hauling around guitars and drum sets, not to mention a hefty sense of entitlement. Not so with the Late Night Players, an "indie comedy" troupe who spent 115 of the 365 days of last year performing across America at schools ranging from Alvernia College to Temple University, as well as various comedy festivals and even – gasp! – some corporate parties.
This year, the LNP have moved into the digital realm, creating videos for hire, like the "America Online" anagram vids they did for the software giant, or "Harry Potter and the Dark Lord Waldemart," a sharp parody they made for the activist group Wal-Mart Watch that's been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube.
They've also incorporated mashups (mashup: a mix of two or more popular songs, particularly effective when the two songs seem incongruous) into their act and their highly amusing website and MySpace page (myspace.com/latenightplayers).
"Overall, we've tried to make the show more of an enveloping experience," Reibstein says, "with music and multimedia and more updated cultural items and references. We really tried to get away from esoteric stuff for a while because people weren't really engaged, but we've found a way to infuse the show with some more intelligent, absurdist material but in a way that it can still connect with people."
Speaking of connecting with people, it doesn't take a genius to appreciate one of the Late Night Players' staples – the dance-off. Reibstein, who is, well, let's just say "not physically imposing," and Sherwin, who is a gigantic stern-looking fellow who often wears his ample hair styled in afro puffs, challenge each other to a duel of the dogs set to C+C Music Factory's ubiquitous jam, "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." Dear lord, it's hilarious. In Reibstein's own words: "It'll knock your hat into your socks." –Sara Miller