The Sketchy Eastern European Show

Vas Eli. (Photo credit: Vas Eli)

Perri Yaniv and Vas Eli. (Photo credit: Vas Eli)

By: Darryl Reilly

“Nazi Matchmaker” is a sketch where two German soldiers have the Coca-Cola logo instead of swastikas on their sleeves; they are engaging in hilarious commentary on Romanian women. This bit is representative of the wit and brilliance which playwright Naren Weiss exhibits in his wild, inventive and acerbic comedy, The Sketchy Eastern European Show. Show business, world politics and life itself are profoundly examined during this exuberant nonlinear exploration. “Coca Colonoscopy” is another satirical gem, recalling the vaudeville of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, there’s a doctor, a patient and a nurse. Mr. Weiss’ command of dramatic writing is supreme; there is a swirling plot, three appealing characters are fully delineated, and the dialogue is propulsive.

Kal is in his late thirties and has been performing standup comedy at New York City’s Players Theatre (where the play is performed) for six years without recognition. We are watching his set; he reveals that he was born and raised in poverty in Romania. His heroic grandmother exposed him to famous comedians by showing him VHS tapes on television, he grew up, moved to the U.S. and Americanized his name to Kal. On the train ride back home to New Jersey, he once again observes the suave, English lothario John charming yet another woman into a future date. Kal gets the brainstorm that he and John should join forces as a sketch comedy duo. Kal isn’t getting anywhere on his own, perhaps this new team will succeed. After contentiousness, they are then at a high school performing a riotous Hip-hop poetry slam routine and then regularly appearing at the Players Theatre. An unseen Beckettian casting agent periodically attends and via notes encourages Kal to depict his Romanian nationality in his material, he and John successfully do so; Netflix and HBO executives begin circling.

Vas Eli (Photo credit: Vas Eli)

Vas Eli is titanic as Kal. The soulful combination of Mr. Eli’s salt of the earth presence, down to earth speech pattern, and commanding physicality are riveting. The lithe, wiry and beaming ponytailed Perri Yaniv is dazzling as John. With balletic grace and his amazing shifting voice, Mr. Yaniv is mesmerizing. “BRAMPIRE”, a funny Dracula takeoff, has Eli gleefully wearing plastic fangs and Yaniv delivering an awesome wolf cry, it is illustrative of their sizzling chemistry together; they are totally believable as Abbott and Costello-type figures. Mirthfully appearing as several stock characters throughout, is the alluring Lexie Shoaibi. It is as Becky, the hard-bitten put upon theater house manger that Ms. Shoaibi makes a haunting impression. Shoaibi’s dry delivery and authoritative mien make her a grand foil for Eli. A soaring, pivotal monologue chronicling harsh realities is delivered to wrenching perfection by Shoaibi.

Perri Yaniv. (Photo credit: Vas Eli)

Eli has directed The Sketchy Eastern European Show with brio. The contained stage is set with a props table, a clothing rack and a screen for antic projections. On this minimalist landscape, Eli creates arresting tableaus, bracing dance sequences, surrealistic flourishes and dramatic clashes, for an exhilarating and compelling 90-minute presentation. Through its humane concerns, searing events and wry insights, The Sketchy Eastern European Show is a moving and thoughtful entertainment.

The Sketchy Eastern European Show (through March 24th, 2024)
The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission


1 comment

  1. I saw the show on Saturday in its preview run and was moved to tears by Shoaibi’s finale monologue, and I never cry at shows and I’ve seen thousands since the 1960s as a kid.

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