‘Brick Penguin Tries Its Best’ is a well-calibrated sketch comedy show


Murphy McHugh, John Blakeslee, John Calcerano, Amy Vance and Natalie Sayth in “Brick Penguin Tries Its Best” at the Capital Fringe Festival. (Courtesy of Murphy McHugh)

There are only so many questions you have about a sketch comedy show like “Brick Penguin Tries Its Best.” I will answer them now. Is it funny? Yes. Should I bring children or extremely grown-up grown-ups? No. Is there a bar? Yes. Free candy, too.

If that’s all you need to know, skip to the end and find out when it’s all happening. I strongly recommend that option, since it’s funnier to see the show than read me writing about it.

But fine, keep reading. The five-member sketch comedy group Brick Penguin has been working together for three years and does a lot of shows — every month or so locally, with some out of town trips, too, according to their Web site — so their “best of” show for the Capital Fringe Festival is quite polished. Comic beats are well-calibrated and nothing lasts much longer than it needs to (except perhaps the whole show; the sketches remained sharp, but audience attention was flagging by minute 80 or so of 100).

A wide variety of things are mocked — Unitarians, sitcoms, American history, D.C. public transportation — and the group keeps its energy high by freestyle dancing to music clips as the next scene is set up. The lone video element didn’t work the night I saw the show, but a different technical problem made the show funnier as Brick Penguin, loosely affiliated with Washington Improv Theater, incorporated its failure into the rest of the scene.

Brick Penguin had no program and their Web site doesn’t have bios or writer information, so I’m guessing they like to be thought of as a unit. Still, each performer had a particular strength — Natalie Sayth’s is withering scorn, Murphy McHugh does a great straight man with a twist, John Calcerano shifts gloriously from a benign character to a dangerous one, John Blakeslee sends up the hero type and Amy Vance has gleeful, manic enthusiasm.

Brick Penguin Tries Its Best

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Wednesday, Friday and July 26 at the Fridge, 516½ Eighth St. SE. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button. About 100 minutes.

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