BY MATT JUSTUS
Directed by Justin Shanes Starring: Sarah Bolling, David Joffe, and a host of other HLS students
In case you missed the signs posted all over campus, this week marks the 46th annual (believe it or not) HLS Parody – March 7-11, although since this review won’t appear until the 9th, I suppose only the final three dates matter to you. The show is entirely student-produced; written by Kelly Brown, Taylor Dasher, Jasi Kamody, Drew McClelland, Justin Shanes and others, produced by Taylor Dasher and Jasi Kamody, choreographed by Damaris Diaz, Lexi Nunn, and Giselle Woo, and directed by Justin Shanes, and it is immediately apparent that extensive effort was put into it, enough that you have to wonder how the cast and crew had the time to make it as good as it was. I barely have time to get these shoddy reviews done amidst my busy schedule of Netflix, TiVo, and homework.
The show’s plot follows a group of punnily-named law students as the weather gets rough and the HLS cruise ship is tossed to a desert isle. Naturally, the first priority for these leaders of our country-to-be is setting up the island’s constitution (as opposed to, say, searching for food). They do a pretty good job of reconstructing the law school, despite the fact that they have no books and only a handful of professors (Dean Kagan disappears from the ship, but not before doing some glowstick dancing that truly must be seen to be appreciated).
At the newly founded Harvard Rock Law School, Mysti Dawn-cha-Wish-Your-Girlfriend-Was-Hot-Like-Me Kofford (Sarah Bolling, 2L) is invited to join the Vie Society (think the Plastics from Mean Girls…yes, I saw Mean Girls), but her friends from the Law Review disapprove, as socialization takes away from valuable study time. Meanwhile, the Vie Society is confronted with that age-old dilemma: law firm and corporate whoredom or public interest and starvation (the firms have made it out to Harvard Rock and helpfully offer to give anyone who gets a callback a ride to the mainland). Meanwhile again, Nick Degahahani (David Joffe, 1L) fails to get his corporations outline to the rest of his law review study group after being gored by a wild boar, leading to his arrest and trial, as Mysti attempts to investigate the crime to clear his name. All of this is interspersed with witty law school-related parodies of popular songs; if your musical knowledge goes beyond 1979, unlike mine, you’ll appreciate them even more than I did.
All of this being said, the plot doesn’t really matter. The show is replete with characterizations of students and faculty of the school, some of which are hilarious, others of which are surprisingly harsh. It references several of the more recent on-campus controversies, that oh-so-awkward first Law and Mind class and the Montrose Spa porn battle being two of the more memorable ones, as well as offering up what is essentially an independent comedy sketch about the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Somehow, Tom Cruise also makes it into the show, along with references to “The Smurfs” and “Saved by the Bell” that satisfied the geek in me. Along the way, it also manages to comment on some legitimate issues faced by students at this school; the aforementioned struggle between law firm and public interest is finally resolved, but the tension between studying and socialization remains. Highlights of the script include the courtroom scene and the on-island interviews, both of which are very quotable (which is the mark of really good sketch comedy). It will take some genuine effort for me to keep from laughing the next time I hear an attorney say: “So what can I tell you about the firm?”
The cast was uniformly enthusiastic and, most importantly, committed to putting on a good show; I often heard cast members offstage laughing at the jokes, which I found to be very sweet and a testimony to their love for the play. The highest compliment I can pay is that their excitement was evident in their performances, and was contagious. The choreography also deserves special mention; one would not think that there would be that many law students capable of such complicated routines, but the dance numbers all worked perfectly. Especially notable was Andrew Ain, who, if I’m not mistaken, was dancing in character as Professor Fried.
The only problem with the show is its length – it feels like the writers wanted to keep all of the funny material they had come up with, but at two hours and forty-five minutes, it’s a little bulky. The show shifts gears during the second act to focus on the Degahahani investigation, and, after the courtroom scene (which I loved) it slows down for a while. Luckily, things pick back up again, and the ending ties things up nicely; I have to admit, it’s hard to fault the “villains” for their logic.
Rating: ***1/2 – It would be nigh-impossible to understand all of the jokes, but as long as you’re a student here, you’ll pick up on some of the references, and the clever script and enthusiasm of the cast make the experience more than worthwhile. Plus, you’ll feel like an idiot if you miss it and don’t know what everyone is talking about when it’s over, like I did last year.