Comedians are often criticized for talking too much. But Ithamar Enriquez says nothing in Ithamar Has Nothing To Say, his new live sketch show.
In his show, running the next two Saturdays at Hollywood's Second City Theater, the comedian consistently fills the intimate proscenium theater with laughs, proving his theory that talking is overrated.
"People are uncomfortable with silence. Not just on stage but in life," explains Enriquez. "We feel the need to fill that empty space with talking, even if we have nothing to say. Sketch comedy can be more than catch phrases, yelling at audiences and scenes about arguing couples in restaurants."
Enriquez utilizes his protean body movement and rubbery facial expressions to create a series of comedic characters and situations. At the start of the production, the seasoned improviser hobbles onstage in silence, his body crumpled into that of an elderly man. With some quick lip action he mocks the removal of his dentures, then limps across the room to pantomime turning on a record player, filling the theater with "La Vie en Rose."
The grumpy old man proceeds to slump into a nearby chair and drift into slumber. The moment his eyelids shut, Enriquez bolts from his seat and proceeds to swing dance with gusto, his youthful athleticism restored inuring his somnolence. The old man's dreaming forms the frame for these otherwise unrelated series of silent sketches.
As Enriquez shapeshifts between characters, from a nightclub patron whose fingers uncontrollably play a piano, to an oblivious ballet-dancing traffic cop, to an overzealous jazz aficionado, a pair of LED flatscreen televisions alternate between displaying images of the scenes' settings and projecting silent film era title cards, a nod to Enriquez's inspirations.
"I've been drawn to physical comedy since I was a kid," he says. "I can watch a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton sequence and still laugh at it as much as I did when I was a child."
In addition to the silent masters, Enriquez also evokes the spirit of American Dad's Roger Smith, the flamboyant alien who dons multiple personas over the course of each episode, often within the same scene. Much of IHNTS's humor stems from the comedian's ability to zip back and forth across the stage entering in and out of myriad characters as they interact with one another.
Enriquez is a veteran of Chicago's Second City, where a traditional show has a third act of improv after two acts of sketch.
"The improv portion was our chance to find something new or something based on a story in the news that very day," he says. "It also encouraged me to fall flat on my face in order to find what works."
Enriquez incorporates improv into his show in a couple of ways. He takes the classic approach by crafting a scene by getting suggestions from the audience. The night this writer saw the show, the comedian had to create an interaction where a veterinarian taught his pet kangaroo to swim. Another improv scene was more innovative. Before the performance, audience members were encouraged to draw different faces on sheets of paper supplied in the lobby. These sketches were placed on a music stand and served as Enriquez's blind date during a scene. As he revealed each face, he had to instantly react to their alternating smiles, grimaces, and shocked expressions with any preparation.
Ultimately, the show will serve as a spring board to the show's web television iteration, which is currently being produced by Maker Studios, Principato-Young Entertainment and the comedy duo Key and Peele, one of Enriquez's inspirations.
Of Enriquez's many talents, the one that makes the strongest impact is his ability to imbue inanimate objects with personality. At one point the comedian takes the wooden cane employed by the grumpy old man from the beginning and transforms it into a beautiful young woman. We see the actor romance his ligneous mate and travel the arc of a lifelong relationship within minutes.
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"There is a lot of noise out there. A lot gets lost in the shuffle because there is so much talking and we tend to ignore all the noise," he says. "We are used to it. This show gives you a break from all that and somehow, forces you to pay attention."
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