2015 is shaping up to be a great year for comedy. Especially female-driven comedy. Alongside new TV and movie projects from Tina Fey, Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling, an increasing number of live shows featuring brilliant, funny women are being produced all over the country. Highlighting some of the talent in New York is Carolyn Castiglia’s Right NOW!, billed as “a female-driven talk show that mixes the best gab fest elements of daytime talk with late-night comedy in a nightclub setting.” Hosted by Castiglia and produced by Trish Nelson’s BanterGirl, the show analyzes pop culture and women’s roles within it.
We checked out the first installment last week and it delivered. Big time. A heady mix of stand-up comedy, music and conversation, Right NOW! is refreshingly self-aware and just the right amount of raw. Blending talk show style conversations about slut-shaming and reality TV with notes on how to survive in “Kale Brooklyn,” the show is funny and completely engaging. It also manages to cover a lot of ground without feeling disjointed.
That’s partly the result of a great cast. Alongside Castiglia, a veteran of the New York stand-up scene and former musical theater actress, the show includes performers Mara Wilson, Ophira Eisenberg, Abbi Crutchfield, Selena Coppock and Desiree Burch, acting in various capacities as talk show guests and correspondents who provide incisive critiques about women’s media. What constitutes a slut? “Someone who’s slept with one more person than you,” explains Wilson, her quip met by explosive laughter.
Rebecca Vigil leads the house band and is both hilarious and an amazingly accomplished improvisational singer who complements Castiglia’s equally hilarious and incredibly quick-witted hosting style. No, really—I’ve rarely seen anyone as quick on their feet as Castiglia, and it works beautifully with the tone and pace of the show.
Then there’s the element of surprise. Katie Hartman and Katie Compa really shine in supporting roles, confusing the audience about what is and isn’t part of the show, but never dropping the ball. Without giving away too many surprises, Hartman starts off as a member of the audience but soon takes center stage herself. And though the cast is primarily made up of women, Right NOW! does include a male presence. During last week’s run it featured Tim Dillon as a “Luxury Consultant” who poked fun at some of the more pretentious aspects of New York’s restaurant culture while also furthering the conversation about gender and sexuality.
With a blended format that showcases the diversity of the performers it features, Right NOW! is at once novel and familiar, offering a new spin on a long-standing conversation. The experimental format suggests that subsequent productions won’t be stale or repetitive. It also signifies something else—the fact that the audience is as much a part of shaping the show as the performers themselves.
Closing out the night with a poetic reminder about the power of imagination, Jean Grae brought the crowd to its feet, hands raised in solidarity for a cultural dialogue that feels both incredibly timely and long overdue.
The next installment of Right Now! will take place at the Slipper Room on May 27.
Photos courtesy: Jenny Rubin