New York comics take their show underground

Tom Boland (
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 05:26:53 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  Associated Press - June 1, 1999



NEW YORK (June 1, 1999 7:20 a.m. EDT
 - A homeless woman stands in the rattling subway car,
clanging a cup of pennies and warbling a tune to an unimpressed
audience. Suddenly, a well-dressed young woman leaps
from her seat, doffs her jacket and challenges the homeless woman
to a fistfight.
"You're the one who stole my subway shtick!" the woman
screams, waving off a fellow passenger who tries to calm her down.
Unfazed, the homeless woman stands her ground.

"I also stole your husband!" she taunts her attacker.

This exclamation finally draws the attention of New York's
notoriously self-involved subway passengers, who usually spend
their rides reading, dozing or tuned in to a Walkman.

By the time the No. 1 train slides into the next station and the
doors open, the two women have apparently reconciled.

The baffled passengers have just witnessed the ninth episode of
"Subway Soaps!," an ongoing serial performed live before a
literally captive audience. The show - sort of "All My Children"
meets "The Jerry Springer Show" - is the creation of Katie Massa
and CeCe Pleasants, two aspiring comics who have chosen to flex
their acting muscles underground.

"This was a good opportunity for us to write something and
produce something without having to pay for space to perform it,"
said Massa, 25.

Some giggle or howl at the show. Others move toward the subway
doors, hoping to get away from the mayhem as soon as the train
stops. Still others throw out advice.

"Punch her. Don't let her get away with that - sleeping with
your man," one woman encouraged Massa.

Their show goes on every Wednesday night at 8 p.m., along the
No. 1 subway line, starting at West 86th Street, down to Chinatown
and back to 86th.

Each episode lasts about three minutes - the duration of two
subway stops. Then the actors rush to the next car and perform it
all over again before a different audience.

"I watch them every week. They're pretty good," said Jose
Rivera, a subway employee. "The first time I saw them I thought
something was going to happen, like a fight. It was so crazy."

The cast always includes the two women, a guest performer and
someone who passes out post-performance leaflets explaining what
passengers have just witnessed.

Asked if the show was drawing a regular following,
Pleasants, 23, said the underground troupe sometimes gets a few
repeat passengers from one week to the next.

"But a following? I'm not sure we have that yet," she said.

"Subway Soaps!" follows Meme (Massa), a homeless woman
rescued from life on the streets by
prostitute-turned-advertising-executive Catty (Pleasants), who
it turns out is Meme's long-lost sister from Wisconsin.

In the spirit of soap opera, Meme sleeps with Catty's boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Meme finds a homeless boy hawking candy bars on the
subway is the son she gave up for adoption.

In the latest episode, titled "A Lulu of a Ride," Meme faces
off against her former partner in crime, Lulu, who has stolen
Meme's song repertoire. Lulu is portrayed by aspiring actress Alice
Muir, 25.

Once, a real homeless man toting a plastic bag told the women to
behave. "You're crazy. Don't talk like that," he told them,
moving into the next car to escape the commotion.

Other passengers can empathize.

"I thought it was real," said Joe Roberts, who spent much of
the performance putting his hand over his mouth to hold back
laughter. "This is New York after all."

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

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