Review: Student production Maryland Night Live continues to impress in its third season

From left to right, Jayson Borenstein and Jonah Gordon helped Maryland Night Live host its Thanksgiving show on Nov. 19, 2019 in Hoff Theater in the Stamp Student Union. (Suze Creedon/The Diamondback)

Now completing its third season, Maryland Night Live continues to change the comedy scene at the University of Maryland. Combining all of the satirical elements that make Saturday Night Live such a hit, the group’s live show Monday combined standup comedy and musical performances with sketches all geared toward life at this university.

Directing the production was MNL founder Walker Green, along with Jwoyal Ranjit and this semester’s host, Joey Barber. The trio produced a show that, once again, was a perfect fit for the students in the audience.

“This is our edgiest show yet,” said Barber during his opening as the host.

He was correct. There was even a “content warning” printed in the program, warning the audience about language and sensitive subject matter. The MNL show certainly proved that Terps devour memes about pretty controversial topics — even the most brow-raising moments of the night were met with wild laughter.

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In an effort to make Jewish traditions resonate more with their young audience, the cast developed the idea of a Marijuana Hanukkah in one of their early sketches — the “potkes” fried in CBD oil was particularly creative.

“One for each night, rip with all your might,” the cast sang in a rendition of “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.”

The jokes catered to the Jewish population at Maryland didn’t stop there. In a particularly hilarious, yet fairly disturbing sketch, students depicted author Mary Pope Osborne unveiling the upcoming additions to her legendary Magic Tree House series. These included Jack and Annie traveling to Auschwitz, and also visiting Hiroshima and the Twin Towers.

In one of the night’s funniest skits, Gordon Ramsay judged both MasterChef Junior and Hell’s Kitchen at the same time. As he absolutely tore the adult contestants apart, complete with the infamous “idiot sandwich” insult, he praised the young participants for serving him French fries, a juice box and a hand-drawn picture. Jonah Gordon was absolutely hilarious as Gordon Ramsay, fully committing to the screams of disappointment.

Of course, host Barber also helped to deliver some of the strongest laughs of the night — and one of his sketches included some unexpected audience participation.

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Barber sat at the end of the stage in a cowboy hat and flannel while playing the harmonica. As he blew into the instrument, the crew tossed a tumbleweed in the background to really set the scene. And once he was finished, he walked into the audience to find the town’s sheriff: an unsuspecting audience member.

With her new cowboy hat and plastic gun, the sheriff followed Barber on a mission to defeat a criminal in the town — she even decided the ending of the sketch. This was a welcome surprise, and the cast’s ability to work off of anything the participant said was impressive.

While hearing the audience’s laughter was great, seeing the band’s reaction to everything on stage was an unexpected joy. The musicians’ shocked looks or powerful laughter only added to the performance.

And though the runtime was definitely long overall, the audience stuck with the cast and crew for roughly two hours for skits separated by breaks of standup comedy and musical guests, both of which were impressive crowd-pleasers. New additions for season three combined with old details made Maryland Night Live a unique production — and the opening credits introducing the cast were still as funny as ever.

In a production the size of MNL, some crew slip-ups or onstage mistakes are to be expected. But nothing was able to distract from the talent of each cast member, and any mistakes only made the show funnier. As the group is beginning to become a campus comedy staple, my expectations are only rising for season four.

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