'90s-Crime Mystery Spoof 'Charter Boys' At Sea Tea Improv

Remember "The Charter Boys," that action-packed TV detective drama that aired on UPN, then the WB, for most of the 1990s?

Of course you don't. It's a spoof, a parody. But "The Charter Boys: Hartford's Most Watched '90s Crime Drama," at Sea Tea Comedy Theater Nov. 9 to 12, will have you recalling all the awkward dialogue, bad facial hair and other cliches that plagued TV cop dramas of two decades ago. Naturally, there's a gruff chief of detectives. Also car chases, which should be amusing on the small Sea Tea stage.

The show, created by Matt J. Saccullo, will also jog your memory of Connecticut history. The Charter Boys, you see, are out to find the long-missing Connecticut Charter.

Despite being staged at the home base of Connecticut's most renowned improv troupe, Saccullo says during a recent phone interview, that "The Charter Boys" is "not an improv show. It's a play. It's fully scripted."

An accomplished playwright and performer who recently returned to Connecticut from years in New York City, the Wallingford native says "I always wanted to do a '90s show. This started as a series of sketches. Then it was a one-act. Then it took on this two-act format."

The first act of "The Charter Boys" pretends to be the TV show's pilot episode. The second act behaves as if it's the show's final episode, six seasons later and on a different small network.

"The whole show takes place in Hartford," Saccullo says. "It's based on actual historical facts." "The Charter Boys" inserts these facts in and around chases, fights, love scenes and arrests.

Besides writing "The Charter Boys" — his 15th play — Saccullo is directing it and performing in it.

"I've worked with all the actors before, through improv shows. One of them, Eric Nelson, I've done shows with since college. I was writing with them in mind, and also figuring out who'd be best to play these stereotypes, like the large angry chief, or the villain who makes these awful puns, or the goofy goons."

The Sea Tea stage isn't conducive to large sets, but "The Charter Boys" doesn't require them, just four rehearsal blocks. "The actors have two costumes each," Saccullo says, "because of how styles changed back then."

For research, Saccullo immersed himself not just in "NYPD Blue" and other landmark '90s cop shows, but also sitcoms of the time. "The Charter Boys" doesn't parody any specific show — it mocks the culture of the '90s, and also has fun with Hartford history.

"If you know your Connecticut history," Saccullo teases, "you might be able to solve the mystery." If not, just sit back and laugh.

THE CHARTER BOYS: HARTFORD'S MOST WATCHED '90S CRIME DRAMA, written and directed by Matt Saccullo, runs Nov. 9 to 12 at Sea Tea Comedy Theater, 15 Asylum St., Hartford. Performances are Nov. 9 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 10 at 9 p.m.; Nov. 11 at 9 p.m.; and Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12. 860-578-4TEA, seateaimprov.com.

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