The folks behind Portland's 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe are behind the new show After School Girlfight! Kill! Kill!, but they're hiding their roots, operating under the moniker Gunhappy Theatrical Ensemble—which focuses on "cult favorites from the early 20th century"—and verbally shouting in their press release, "This is NOT sketch comedy!" In production, however, After School has the attention-deficit energy one expects from sketch comedy, replete with ridiculous caricatures and situational jokes that are funny in five-minute segments, but become tiresome when elongated further. Here, longtime 3rd Floor writers/directors Kevin-Michael Moore and Ted Douglass flex the same sketch muscles they've always flexed, but flex them for longer and call it something different.
Set in the campy '60s and '70s, the show is comprised of four one-acts, including "Deep Inside the Valley of the Girl Whores," a Russ Meyer-esque babe-fest with huge-breasted bad girls killing a pile of male hillbillies to get their hidden cash. As the girls, Heather Nelson Robertson, Jordana Barnes, and Deanna Wells have the menacing/sexy body language and speech inflection of cartoonish hot rod chicks down pat; in fact, After School across the board features great performances and stellar production values. The 3rd Floor/Gunhappy cast is one of the better acting ensembles to be found in Portland, and their technical crew recreates styles and eras with exceptional success. "It's Not Easy Being Teen" is a pitch-perfect recreation of drippy after-school specials from the '70s, while "The Village of Damien's Baby" recalls Rosemary's Baby and other "scary kid" flicks with startling precision. 3rd Floor faves like Andrew Harris and Andy Buzan pop up frequently, and newcomers like Dan Vhay and the excellent Jami Chatalas Blanchard hold their own alongside them.
Unfortunately, after two hours and 40 minutes After School's delirious pacing and hilariously cardboard characters become tiresome. It needs to be cut down, its funny ideas broken into smaller, manageable chunks that aren't stretched awkwardly to connect in a bloated evening of cohesive "theater." In other words, After School needs to be sketch comedy.