In the case of Come Ova, one of New York's most delightful ongoing improv comedy shows, this happens to be a good thing. Original yet somehow familiar, Come Ova embodies the nostalgic spirit of all the television sitcoms that you probably watched after dinner when you were supposed to be doing your homework. Vibrant characters, hilarious one-liners, relatable life experiences; it's a perfect recreation of prime time TV. The only difference is, this sitcom is on stage and totally unscripted.
While these iconic characters (Mom, Dad, the daughter, the mailman, sassy Aunt and boy-next-door) may know who they are at each show, the actual content and dialogue is just as much of a mystery to them as it is to the audience eagerly awaiting each line. Before each show begins, there is a collection of suggestions taken from the audience, which will provide the randomly-selected plot and ensure that the entire experience is created as the audience watches.
With the finesse of a magic show, the plot of Come Ova materializes before your very eyes, as the team of improv actors play off of one another's well-timed quips and create a story that is better than most of the writing found on regular cable TV.
Starring creator Anne Hogan as Theresa “Ma” Listretta, the cast of Come Ova depicts a somewhat accentuated (and accented) New York family. Ma Listretta and her husband Joe, played by Andrei Alupului, are the quintessential Queens couple, raising their daughter (Ashley Cohen) with some choice advice from Ma's sister Regina (Glennis LaRoe). The cast is hilariously rounded out by the boy-next-door Gene, played by Mike Greene, and of course the jovial mailman, played by Tom Kelley, who provide the perfect counterparts to the Listretta family and their antics.
In the most recent Come Ova installment at the SoHo Playhouse, I found myself utterly enthralled by the Listretta family's reaction to daughter Ashley being invited to prom by Gene, and was completely drawn in by the end, which deftly drew the “episode” to a satisfying conclusion. The dialogue was so on-point that I truly had trouble believing that it was made up on the spot.
Using the charm and quick-thinking of its talented cast, Come Ova manages to achieve what so many sitcoms only attempt. It is as captivating as it is comforting, and left me with the combined satisfaction of a good Netflix binge and a live show.
So Come on Ova, and live out your fantasy of being in the live studio audience of New York best-written sitcom, that wasn't written at all.