The tiny underground theater Under St. Marks, dually named for its propensity for independent acts and its physical location, hosted another chapter of “Live in the Village” on Wednesday, its quirky monthly variety show. The sparse crowd of seven was not entirely sure what to expect from such an intimate space. “Live in the Village,” however, did not disappoint. If you’re looking to have casual fun on a Wednesday night or see some of the best comedy the city has to offer, you should definitely put the show on your radar.
Kevin Dombrowski, the host of the show, did his job and did it well; despite working with small numbers, he set the tone for the evening and made the audience feel at home. He even asked everyone individually what they were doing at the theater (writer’s note: in our exchange, he told me to insult him in this article — here you go, Kevin DUMBrowski).
After berating a couple that had met on Bumble, he introduced the first featured guest, Liz Miele, a charming writer and comedian from New Jersey. Her set, short compared to the others, tackled a lot of issues that felt close to home. She touched upon mental illness and family, to name some big ones. However, Miele left viewers wanting more. She could have gone on longer, and the audience wished she had. She was funny and it seemed like she wasn’t on a strict time constraint. If her strategy was to get people to see her live again, then it might have worked, but the length of her set was dissatisfying.
Next came the weakest part of the show. Despite Sean O’Hagan’s charming doorman-turned-comedian persona and two solid opening jokes, his delivery and timing slowly devolved towards the end of the set. Eventually, there were eon-long silences between his jokes. To his credit, he did somehow make his experiences with drug addiction funny, which is difficult for any comedian to do.
That’s the point of these shows to some extent, though — everyone seemed to be, to some level, testing the waters for their material. The worst-case scenario for these comedians was the possibility of disappointing seven people for a hot second. They came away knowing which parts of their sets worked and which parts didn’t, which was was proved with O’Hagan’s set.
Following O’Hagan was the strongest set of the show, Sonia Denis. It was the perfect length, and Denis used her personal quirks to her advantage. Her timing and interactions with the audience were tasteful, and the subject matter was relatable, yet unique. Not everyone is from an immigrant family or in an interracial relationship, but Denis made each one of those something anyone could relate to. It will be exciting to see where she goes, as her career seems to be budding.
The show closed with Mike Lemme’s extended set, as the poet who was supposed to close the show couldn’t make it. His set was strong towards the start, lamenting about owning small property in the city and the desolate realities of the small town he came from. Toward the end of the set, he delved into prepping new material for his show at the theater that will be running later in the month. Had the original poet been there and had Lemme not been forced to test material, the set would have been a solid way to close off the night, but nobody could fault him for trying to fill in the gap and prepare for his new show.
“Live in the Village” happens monthly at Under St Marks Theater at 94 St. Marks Place.
Email Thomas Miritello at [email protected]