Review of Maybe She’s Born With It—Maybe It’s LYLAS

It hurts me deep down inside to have to report that the current LYLAS double-feature, Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s LYLAS! and Oh No She Didn’t! has already sold out. But let me offer a glimmer of hope to those willing to take their chances at the door: the night I saw the show, a party of four actually didn’t show up. I shudder to think what catastrophe — personal, economical, ecological, gastrointestinal or otherwise — lies behind their failure to claim their coveted seats, which remained, tragically, empty. But if you decide not to take your chances this time, let this review convince you to keep a sharper lookout for the next LYLAS offering.

This was my first experience with LYLAS (“Asheville’s first and only all-female sketch comedy troupe”), and despite seeing my gender roasted without mercy in a number of the sketches, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As is inevitably the case with sketch comedy, the material itself is a bit uneven — some of the sketches being insanely funny, others merely amusing –– but these women are all, in their various ways, great performers. They not only throw themselves (sometimes literally) into their preposterous roles with tremendous commitment and gusto, but they have a great time doing it. How they don’t crack each other up I honestly don’t know.

The program informs us that LYLAS (an acronym for “Love Ya Like A Sis”) “attempts to lovingly skewer at all times. If we have poked fun at your business, group of friends, favorite city council member, or outdoor festival, it’s because we love Asheville and consider you to be an Asheville icon.” Fair warning. Like the best comedy, Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s LYLAS rests on truth — not truth as in What Happened, but as in The Kind Of Sh*t That’s Always Happening In This Freaky Town. There are couple of running gags in the show that take local matters pretty lightly (one involving an elaborate plot to get people to move to Asheville), as well as a number of individual sketches that are scarcely imaginable anywhere else. Others deal with what for lack of a better term I’ll call feminine experience: “Super Girlfriends,” for instance (I have no idea if that’s the actual title of the sketch) would have made me fall off my chair if I hadn’t had a wall nearby to lean on for support. And “Gudger’s Hardware” will delight all but those who think True Blood is serious drama. Along the way, we get some familiar pop songs that have been warped into delightful spoofs of Asheville’s finest, as well as some video material bearing the Peter Brezny stamp.

The only weak aspect of the show is not the writing or performing, but the technical issue of transitions between sketches — admittedly, a huge challenge for a show consisting of some two-dozen-odd scenes with different characters in different settings in a tiny (and I do mean tiny) theatre. No amount of hip music piped in over the speakers can hide a slow transition, especially when you’ve been thrilling your audience with fast-paced hilarity during the scenes themselves. Then, even a five-second lull can let the air out of the show. 

Luckily, these lulls are few, and the pace quickly picks up again. The performers — Jenny Bunn, Delina Hensley, Betsy Puckett, Emily Miller, Robin Raines and Marissa Williams — all have their moments of ridiculous glory; and when their job is to play the “straight-man” (with or without y-chromosome), they graciously take up position at the butt of the joke. Which reminds me: there’s a late show (starting at 10 p.m.) featuring a different program, Oh No She Didn’t!, which I did not see, but which, according to the program, is intended for “mature and naughty-minded audiences only.” Sounds good. 

Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s LYLAS! and Oh No She Didn’t!, all-female sketch comedy written, directed and performed by LYLAS: Karri Brantley, Jenny Bunn, Sarah Carpenter, Beth Keefauver, Delina Hensley, Emily Miller, Betsy Puckett, Robin Raines, Marissa Williams, (with Special Guests). Videographer: Peter Brezny. Lighting Designer: Jason Williams. Stage Manager: Cindy Baldwin. Board Operator: Beth Mayo. Note: All shows sold out, but wouldn’t hurt to call and ask about cancellations. Performances of Maybe She’s Born With It! through Saturday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m., 35 Below at ACT, 35 E. Walnut St., Downtown Asheville. Tickets: $12. 254-1320. Oh No She Didn’t is for adult audiences, and plays Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 only, 10 p.m.. Tickets $15. 

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