On Friday Oct. 28, long-form improvisation group Vibrant But Deadly filled Sturges Auditorium with hysterical laughter as they presented a comedic murder mystery that was positively to die for.
Vibrant But Deadly, comprised of Geneseo students, meet once a week to hone their improvisational skills. The group came together in fall 2010, and though they've performed at festivals in Syracuse and at the Rochester Institute of Technology, this was their first on-campus show.
The completely unscripted murder mystery began with junior Sean Endress requesting murder scene and time period suggestions from the audience. The shouted proposals stuck the comedians in a candy factory on a Thursday in 1592. When some of the group members complained about the time period, Endress bellowed, "Make it up!"
After establishing the setting, which featured mice-powered machinery and a body clogged in a conveyor belt, the cast jumped back in time to establish the events leading up to the murder.
The plot was impressively coherent considering the nature of the show. Three competing candy factories tried to sabotage each other until a body showed up in one of their factories. The spontaneous nature of the scene changes made it hard to keep track of the plot sometimes, but the members did a good job of bringing things back.
Though some of the members of the cast took a while to ease into their characters, each one was distinctly hilarious. Sophomore Will Maher came out with a bang, slapping junior Rob Walz across the face and screaming, "Dammit Samantha!" Walz then had to improvise his flaky Samantha character on the spot. The gag was repeated several times throughout the show, but it never got old, especially since the characters played off each other so well.
Sophomore Andrea Springer's loopy Anabelle was a standout with her exaggerated grimaces and warbling voice, and the audience enjoyed that sophomore Philip Romano's character was in a perpetual state of quivering panic.
At first, the cast seemed to forget about the time period, but eventually they used the anachronisms to the benefit of their wit.
In the moment, Walz said, "I'm working at the candy factory in the next –" After glancing at a nonexistent wristwatch he exclaimed, "Well, that doesn't exist!" Later, two of the cast members improvised a commercial for a candy factory, spurring Romano to ask, "Have you seen those walking commercials?" After a second advertisement, Romano shrieked, "Get out of my house!" eliciting an eruption of laughter.
About halfway through the show, Endress gauged audience applause to decide who was going to be the murder victim. They decided on Samantha, and then the cast temporarily left to decide on the real murderer. The audience chose to arrest Romano's character Grant, who dissolved into a quivering heap of hysterics.
The plot then continued to reveal that the actual killer was Samantha's sister, junior Rachel Tamarin's Jane. The reveal lacked the delightful melodrama it could have had, but the rest of the show was funny enough to make up for it.
It's hard enough to put on a performance, much less a full-length show with a plot and characters that don't exist yet. The fact that Vibrant But Deadly managed the task with continued hilarity makes them the on-campus comedy group to watch.