Magic Time! A Report on ‘Straight Outta Hell’ at Next Day Theater

With a stand-up comedy act plus five skits, the laughs last Saturday at Straight Outta Hell—Next Day Theater’s one-night-only sketch-comedy surprise—were well earned. Producer Matt Spangler had once again put together a bang-up blast for a full house at Tropicalia, the happening basement boîte at 14th and U.

Chalk up another win for DC’s performing arts nightlife, and another venue for fearless writers, directors, and performers. By the time the amply unwound audience cheered the curtain call, the tiny Tropicalia stage was crammed with a throng of actors who had just tickled the assembled funny bones. And this was no skeleton crew. By my count the cast numbered 33, up from 22 the last time Next Day Theater popped up in May.

OPENING ACT: Cortez Fabia

Cortez Fabia.
Cortez Fabia.

The comic’s first joke—a nod to the athletic good looks he’d gotten from his Asian/African American parentage—was “No, I’m not Tiger Woods.” Fabia is an appealing performer, and the audience was right with him as he went on to ribald riffs about what he fears.  Not scary Halloween stuff, though: What alarms him is his mother dating. In that tell-all context Fabia noted wryly that the only thing he and his  mother’s new boyfriend had in common was that they’d both “been inside her”—at which lewd truth the audience fell out.

Thereafter in an interlude that Spangler assured me by email was “a little self-deprecating / meta fun,”  an Exorcist/Carrie specter all in red entered and vomited—a bit intended as a bad-taste palette cleanser.

In sketch comedy, setup is key. There has to be humor built in to the situation from the get-go. Accordingly, what follows are teasers for the five subsequent Halloween-themed comedy sketches—as conceived by a pickup team of writers and directors—meant as much to give a giggle with the gist as to whet your appetite for Next Day Theater’s next groaning smorgasbord.

CASPER’S COMING OUT PARTY: Written by Anne Marie DiNardo. Directed by Jen Williams. With Erik Heaney, Noah Sommer, Paul McLane, Karen Masih, Lena Winter.

Casper's Coming Out Party.
Casper’s Coming Out Party.

It’s a close-knit family of traditional ghosts—mom, dad, grandma, two brothers—whose mission is to scare. But one of the boys has a secret to tell: He doesn’t want to pretend anymore that he’s a ghost and have to scare people because inside he knows he’s a fairy. (His family doesn’t clap their hands.)

HERE COMES THE PANIC: Written by Jenny Splitter. Directed by Jenna Duncan. With Tori Boutin, Emma Hebert, Hilary Kelly, Yewande Odetoyinbo, Rick Westercamp, Robert Pike.

Here Comes the Panic.
Here Comes the Panic.

She’s about to become the bride of a zombie, and she’s freaking out. (Maybe she’d calm down if some Anne Rice were thrown?)

MONSTER GROUP HOUSE: Written by Derek Hills. Directed by Natalia Gleason. With Joseph Mariano, Kenny Washington, Richard Evans, Jean Chemnick, Lorrie Smith, Janel Dillard.

Monster Group House.
Monster Group House.

Their monster tax rebate is in jeopardy. They have to scare more but they’re losers at it. They need a zombie life coach. (Oh right, that’s an oxymoron.)

MEAT-CUTE: Written by Matt Spangler. Directed by Timothy R. King. With Kurt Riggs, Cristen Stephansky, David Walsh, Johana Vargas, Brittany Sankofa.

Meat Cute.
Meat Cute.

It’s a frontier restaurant called Chez Donner (as in Donner Pass), and the repast it offers is…people. (Mmm, delish.)

MURDERELLA: Written by Dara Gold, Star Johnson, and Desiree Springer. Directed by Star Johnson. With Desiree Springer, Dara Gold, Merancia Noelsaint, Vitaly Mayes, Ben Harris, Jackie Madejski, Brittney Sankofa, Harvey Jones, Johana Vargas, Breanna Mckenley, Janani Ramachandran.


It’s a hookup scene for ghouls and guise. There are bad dates aplenty. Topless pics are sexted. Dramas ensue (“I will no longer support the tissue industry with my heartache!”).

Next Day Theater sketches are intrinsically ephemeral. You have to catch ’em before they’re not. So if you want to be looped in about Next Day Theater’s next loopy one-off, like its Facebook page, subscribe to its email list, or email ndt.24hr@gmail.

Next Day Theater performed Straight Outta Hell October 17, 2015 at Tropicalia – 2001 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC.

Next Day Theater’s Matt Spangler Recaps Their May 16, 2015 Performance at Tropicalia

Matt Spanler on Next Day Theater: “Like Hitting a Truck”

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John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg is executive editor of DC Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg. Member, American Theatre Critics Association.


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