An Upright Citizens Brigade Theater Closes With Filthy Fanfare

An Upright Citizens Brigade Theater Closes With Filthy Fanfare


The show, conceived by Ms. O’Neill, consisted of back-to-back performances from six “Harold” teams, the company’s name for specialists in a kind of long-form improv based on rapid-fire, loosely interrelated sketches. An early skit involved a family at a funeral home whacking the swollen corpse of its patriarch with a Wiffle bat. The scenarios became more gleefully deranged from there.

Backstage beforehand, performers, many of whom had spent years in the improv trenches together, exchanged hugs and compared photos of the admission line that wrapped around Gristedes and an adjacent McDonald’s — the theater’s longtime unofficial cafeteria. In a narrow, fluorescently lit hallway papered with old show fliers, they fueled themselves with beer, coffee and Red Bull while psyching each other up for the “last dance” and speculating about the future.

Photo

Chloe Marsh, a U.C.B. performer, backstage on closing night.

Credit
Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

“You’ve got to step up the way you dress! Articulate!” Alexis Pereira, a member of the house team Some Kid, joked with his teammate Andy Bustillos. Mr. Pereira had tapped into a current of anxiety that was coursing through the room. How much would moving to 42nd Street change U.C.B.? Would anything ever be as fun as the basement?

“It’s always felt a little punk rock to me,” said Mr. Bustillos, who began taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade in 2010. “When I first came here, I used to be in hard-core bands and I thought, ‘Oh this is cool: You go in a basement and it’s dark and it smells and the beer is cheap.’ I loved that about it.”

Jesse Lee, who took his first class in 2006, said he expected the new theater’s proximity to the theater district to attract a different kind of audience. “This place is kind of nondescript, it feels kind of like a secret,” he said. Mr. Lee said he would miss the clubhouse atmosphere of the basement but, in true improv fashion, was staying open to the possibilities of a new incarnation. “What’s exciting is that you never know where U.C.B. will go from here,” he said.

Onstage, after all six Harold teams had performed, the show became a kind of delirious free-for-all, with Ms. O’Neill issuing a series of outlandish prompts and audience members, many of whom seemed to have been waiting for this moment, joining the fray. One game, which involved eating raw jalapeños and chugging from a half-gallon of milk, ended in several performers’ vomiting into a trash barrel onstage.

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