Chris Vititoe & Kent Carney in The Roast of HBO. Photo by Crystal Sullivan.
The Roast of HBO
Written and performed by Kent Carney, Andy Fleming, Rachael Goldman, Sean Keller, Holly Lynnea, Mandee McKelvey, Sean Smith, & Chris Vititoe
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The series of roasts produced by Character Assassination take the freedom of the concept seriously. Unabashedly blue and unafraid of being offensive, the series is a no holds barred parody of popular culture. Batman, Spiderman, and Darth Vader are but a few past targets. In turning its attention to HBO, the first pay channel and the first to generate original content, the group is able to take on several iconic characters.
The roastee is technically Jon Snow (Kent Carney), one of the central figures still alive and kicking on the highest rated show in the network’s history, Game of Thrones, but the panel members serve up the merciless attacks on each other with equal comic viciousness. Tony Soprano (Andy Fleming), serves as MC and kicks things off with a spirited debate as to what is the greatest show ever to air on HBO. Carrie Bradshaw (Mandee McKelvey) of Sex and the City prances on stage as light and bubbly as pink champagne, followed by The Crypt Keeper (Chris Vititoe) whose time on HBO actually pre-dates everyone we see onstage, but I’m not sure how many people remember him. Omar Little (Sean Smith) from The Wire enters whistling his theme, “The Farmer in the Dell,” and Al Swearingen (Sean Keller) from Deadwood also take the stage. Then, rather improbably, the dais included television pioneer Lucille Ball (Rachael Goldman), and “Crazy Eyes” (Holly Lynnea) from Orange is the New Black, which is a Netflix show.
Yet the two additional women are welcome, and provide a foundation for a feminist strain in an evening characterized by sexist jokes. Ms.Goldman delivers a bold parody of the beloved Lucy, and Mandee McKelvey turns her late-in-the-evening stint as Carrie Bradshaw into a surprisingly thoughtful, pointed, yet still hilarious, commentary on the recent deconstruction of feminism.
Any serious context is not discovered at the expense of the laughs, which are frequent enough to make for another winner in this series. When I was there, Ms. Lynnea’s performance as “Crazy Eyes” felt lacking in energy, missing the snap brought by the other cast members, or maybe it was just closer to the kind of work we would expect in a scripted play; not as over-sized a caricature as Lucy or Carrie Bradshaw.
Sean Keller covered his ginger hair with a black wig to render an approximation of Al Swearingen that was a little savage, which was just right, and then left the stage for a period to return with his Vermillion on display as an outrageous Conor McGregor, reminding us that the season finale of Game of Thrones was not the only much-anticipated event on HBO in recent days. Mr. Keller’s bravura, take no prisoners characterization of the controversial fighter was the high point of the evening, a truth commented upon with sarcastic relish by Kent Carney when he had to follow this inspired performance – “You don’t leave for awhile and then return doing a better Irish accent right before me!!! – Who does that?!?!?!?” Mr. Carney, by the way, is the secret weapon of this enterprise because of his great, high-pitched, eruptive laughter; something he released often watching his comrades at work.
Not every cultural touchstone of this generation originated on HBO, sometimes it just feels like it.
The Roast of HBO
August 25 & 26, 2017 @ 7:30 PM & 10:00 PM
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.