by Zoe Goldstein
Nitrous Oxide was a night of laughter, hilarity, and commentary. Audience members will leave feeling satisfied with the comical skits, impressed that high school students created the show, and filled with disbelief that they just watched a teenager smash open a watermelon and roll around in its juice.
Theatre Ink’s Nitrous Oxide, which runs Feb. 1 through 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Little Theatre, is a sketch comedy show directed by seniors Galen Rokosz and Annabelle Tocco. The sketches touched upon topics from politics to superheroes to space travel, each one perfectly pointed and hitting its mark. The skilled acting, engaging physicality of the actors’ gestures, sharp sense of humor, and relevant topics made the show an absolute must-see.
The show opened with a robbery sketch during which the entire cast erupted into a series of acrobatic tricks including intricate games of leap frog, cartwheels, and full splits. This absurd turn of events ended with a gymnastic feat that set the tone for the rest of the show: the last thief awkwardly hopping around in a sleeping bag for no apparent reason. The first sketch left the audience laughing, and the laughter barely stopped for the rest of the show.
From there, Nitrous Oxide bounced quickly from skit to skit: a discussion of surprising animal friends (a plastic container with vegetables being the penultimate); a parent-teacher conference that devolved into a witch hunt for Communists; a meeting of the Straight-Straight Alliance.
“This group has a great combination of personalities and backgrounds which allows a ton of perspectives on comedy,” said senior Josh Shub-Seltzer, a cast member.
In addition to live sketches, the show also offered a series of pre-recorded video sketches.
“We get to film some beforehand that require editing and funky settings, which allows us to do more,” said senior Laura Andersen, a cast member.
One such sketch was called “The Job Interview” and entailed Jacob, a young child, deciding whether or not he should hire an engineer played by junior Andrew Hastings. A frequent interview question was “why?” repeated again and again. And again.
Cast members said they put in many hours of work to create the show.
“The majority of the cast was new to Nitrous and sketch writing in general so we spent the first part of the process doing a lot of research and practice,” said Shub-Seltzer. Practice included, “watching a lot of different sketch comedy—good and bad—and looking into the history of it.”
Senior Ben Fischer said, “It was a lot of trial and error, taking ideas and using the other people in the troupe to figure out how to make them work. None of what we did was purely individual. Even if something started as an individual project we worked as a team to make it as funny as possible.”
Recurring acts in the show included the appearances of a well-known superhero and his nemesis, Batman and Joker, and a less well-known superhero, Florida Man, played by Hastings. Florida Man, who claims he can eat thirty cockroaches in a minute, was always accompanied by his own theme song and showed up in several different sketches throughout the show.
Between the longer sketches were a series of brief ones that included only a line or two of dialogue. These creative and funny skits, and a selection of peppy transition music, helped to avoid potential monotony caused by a barrage of similar length sketches.
A highlight of the show that left an emotional mark on the audience and a physical mark on the stage was a sketch involving a tarp, a shopper, played by senior Natalie Cotter, looking for the right fruit, and the dismemberment of several fruits. The sketch, which occurred immediately before intermission, gave the audience a delicious feeling of incredulous anticipation before the second half.
The show was pertinent to high schoolers through its absurd sense of humor, rumination on teenage themes such as sexuality, identity, and classes at school, and reflection upon politics, a topic hard to avoid in this day and age. Nitrous Oxide is a hilarious show that is all at once an escape from the life of high school and a closer look at teenagers’ daily lives.