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Fringe Festival – ComedySportz’s Cecily and Gwendolyn probe the audience for laughs


“Let the probe commence!” cry Cecily and Gwendolyn, time-traveling Victorian social anthropologists, played by Kelly Jennings and Karen Getz. Just whom do they plan to probe? The audience, of course.

ComedySportz Cecily and Gwendolyn
Pictured (Left to Right): Kelly A. Jennings as Cecily (L) and Karen Getz as Gwendolyn (R). Photo Credit: Chrissy K Photography .

Part of the ComedySportz improv troupe offerings at the Adrienne, Cecily (Jennings) and Gwendolyn (Getz) are collecting data on modern life and recruiting audience members as their ethnographers, ethnopictologists, and key informants. In colorful contemporary tops and voluminous red-belted white petticoats, the two begin communing with the audience in ripe British accents long before the show actually starts, avidly questioning ticket-buyers’ choice of seats and offering “biscuits” to lobby loiterers.

Bouncing effortlessly off of audience members’ choices and suggestions, on Wednesday night, Cecily and Gwendolyn examined the cult of the cheesesteak, and then found inspiration in that most enigmatic of Philadelphia public rituals: the Mummers’ Parade. Goading the audience, they sought to understand the New Year’s extravaganza at its core: “What is the point of the Mummers?” Is it celebrating the New Year like Stonehenge and the Druids, but with sparkles, they asked.  Is it an opportunity for Philly’s emotionally, economically, and artistically repressed masses to express themselves once a year? And aren’t a bunch of men prancing in feathered, sequined, mirrored costumes “a little homoerotic?”

The scientists concluded that at heart, in celebrating the New Year with their outlandishly costumed march up Broad Shtreet (in the local parlance), the Mummers (and, perhaps, Philadelphians at large) seek to “thrust their psyche on the world.”

In a testament to the show’s appeal, the youth manning the ticket booth crept into the theater after the show began, grinning, and remained for the rest of the performance.

Getz and Jennings, veterans of the Philly comedy and drama stage, prove that the real joy of good improv isn’t just the laughs, or the marvel of the actors’ quick wits. It’s the performers’ seasoned rapport, both with each other and with the audience, as well as their knack for soliciting happy participation from all, which makes for great improv.

If you go to see Cecily and Gwendolyn in their hour-long anthropological “Fantastical,” while you can expect a fun time, don’t get your heart set on more cheesesteaks and Mummers. “Every night is different!” Getz and Jennings reminded theater-goers at the end of the show.

By the way, the ComedySportz improv troupe will keep us laughing throughout the Fringe: Its shows at the Adrienne this year include “Beatbox Philly,” an improvised rap and storytelling performance; “Dangerous Minds,” an east coast/west coast play from audience members’ suggestions; and “The Archdiocese of Laughter,” about “the strange and silly side of being a Catholic.”

“ComedySportz Presents Cecily and Gwendolyn,” $15, is running as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, on September 14 at 8:30pm and September 20-21 at 7pm at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street. For a full list of the Fringe’s ComedySportz offerings, or to order tickets, visit the Fringe Festival website.