This past weekend, Rutgers' student comedy troupe the College Avenue Players (CAP) put on its Halloween-themed sketch show, "5 Nights at Scott Hall."
Capitalizing on the hype surrounding the recently released "Five Nights at Freddy's" film (where Josh Hutcherson returns to save cinema), the show focused on the original video game in 6 of its 15 sketches. And even this was far too many.
While "Five Nights at Freddy's" remains an incredibly popular game and a cultural touchstone for many current college students, it lacks enough universal recognition and, frankly, plot material to build an entire show around.
Many of the sketches that were focused on "Five Nights at Freddy's" brought little to the table besides occasional niche references and writing as dated as the franchise.
Show opener "Day and Night" and "FNAF Fanfiction" relied on weed and fanfiction jokes, all shoehorned into a "Five Nights at Freddy's" premise. "The Couple's Counseling Session of '87" culminated in a Markiplier reference that only appealed to fans of the game or the YouTuber, leaving some audience members on the outside of what seemed to be an inside joke. "FNAF Rap" was actually enjoyable as a straight musical number but suffered heavily from the pointless, distracting background character hijinks.
Still, most of the "Five Nights at Freddy's" sketches did nothing but add to the show's two-hour, bloated runtime. As harsh as it sounds, cutting these sketches would have allowed for more of CAP's original comedy writing to shine. In fact, original sketches, Halloween-themed but not tied to any video game, were where this production's strength lay.
The best sketch of the night was invariably "First Day," by Sam Guenzburger, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, which focuses on a recently deceased individual as they learn the ropes of being a ghost. With simple but clever jokes and tight line delivery, this skit is what all college sketch comedy should be like. Ghosts not filling out paperwork because they're "formless"? — Tony-worthy.
Other memorable acts included writer and School of Arts and Sciences senior Ryan Fallon's "Barry" arc, composed of the two intermission-bookending sketches "Barry Has Something to Say" and "What if FNAF was Bisexual."
These sister sketches explore the global repercussions of when "Barry from work" chooses to stop participating in Halloween. An absurdist take on office culture's self-serious relationship with holidays like Halloween, the sketch was delightfully ridiculous, and Jamie Aulisi, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, played a perfectly earnest Barry.
In addition to Aulisi, other standout cast members included Jimena Torres, a School of Engineering junior, Danylah Jones, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year and Adrian Schilling, a School of Nursing first-year.
All four of these cast members elevated the show, even in dryer sketches like "Bro vs. Ghoul," managing to deliver substantive performances without falling back on the age-old college comedy tradition of "scream-acting," — a method based on the fallacy that being loud equals being funny.
For sure, some of the sketches featured in "5 Nights at Scott Hall" seemed heavily dependent on this method, but then again, you're going to see an experimental college comedy show inspired by a video game, so expectations should be appropriately managed.
"5 Nights at Scott Hall" was, overall, a fantastic time — for the cast. The most gratifying part of watching this production was seeing the clear camaraderie the members of CAP have with each other. And often, this bond translated to on-stage chemistry that bandaged many sketches' lack of cohesion.
One thing is clear: The troupe knows how to have fun, and perhaps for CAP's fall mainstage production, "Solve It Squad," it will pull together a well-acted, original show with a single plotline.