Take it Off, Harry Elam: A Review of Gaieties 2013

As I take the seat next to Gaieties producer Nora Tjossem, I know very little about what to expect from this traditionally outrageous, body-painted, Cal-jabbing show, except the blur of riotous laughter that I remember from my freshman year.

High expectations at the beginning, but damn, all of them were met.

The story is a tragic one; one of hope, one of deceit, of intellectual struggle. I found myself immersed in a tale of a Fuzzy-Techie divide on Stanford turf that turns into a full-fledged campus war. The villains who spark it? Who else but a motley crew of Cal students, led by a certain embittered Disney Channel psychic (played by the talented Megan Gage)? Her henchmen include my all-time favorite Berkeley stoner hippie character “Bubbles” (Katie Bick), a high-energy, dim witted Oski Bear (Luke DeWilde), and a certain clueless Notre Dame football player (Dan Ashton), on the desperate search for an elusive love.

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I found myself semi-choking on my water about five minutes into the performance from laughter. Nora didn’t catch that, as she was busy yelling “TAKE IT OFF!” during the introductory scene, as Harry Elam Jr. (the exuberant Annabah Glasser) performs a risqué choreography, leading us into the battle story.

As Techies fought Fuzzies, stereotypes were too funny to find offensive. As a mix of the two, I found myself stifling snorts of laughter at some of the freshmen characters: The Palo Alto bro who tears up at the thought of leaving his parents, the Resident Fellows at Cedro, upon his move in to Burbank, the thick-accented international student, and the artsy-fartsy literary snob. His fuzzy compatriot is noted to have an espresso in hand at all times, and a portable coffee grinder in his literature class.

The techie scenes are equally ridiculous, consisting of over zealous freshmen in their CS 106A class. Very notable was the performance of Justin Cavazos as Mehran Sahami, CS 106A professor, gleefully throwing candy at the wide-eyed freshmen in the lecture hall.

The transition between scenes was a burst of flashing club lights, bright candy-colored backdrops, and silhouettes of students body-rolling and twerking their way on stage. In the words of a particularly loud Band member heckling in the audience, it “looked like a fucking iTunes commercial.” And it did.  Beats thumped from the stage, and it was hard to stop myself from dancing in my seat. To be honest, I danced anyway.

The group songs and routines were excellently performed. Some memorable songs include the tear-jerking satirical solo by Ashton,  as well as the spot-on spinoff of a familiar TV show theme song by the villain squad.  I was blown away by how a group could be simultaneously synchronized and funny. Not a single actor took themselves seriously on stage and I could tell immediately, which made me love them a thousand times more.

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Interdisciplinary peace or eternal campus divide?

Go fucking see it and find out. You might not get all of the references, but you’ll get most of them, and have a good loud laugh with your friends. It’s witty, it’s scandalous, and it’s so very Stanford. Think fountain hopping in rally gear after crushing yet another football team, perhaps about seven shots of rum in. That’s Gaieties, but not as funny.

Gaietiesberg: A Campus Divided opens tonight in Memorial Auditorium.  Click here for more info and tickets.

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