If writing and performing a scripted comedy is tricky – and it is – imagine how difficult it is to be part of a team that must pull laugh-making material out of thin air on demand from its audience.
That’s what improv performers face every night, and some of comedy’s biggest game-changers got their start with it. (Bill Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Myers, Kristin Wiig, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, to name just a few.) Washington Improv Theatre, in its latest show, Seasonal Disorder, has a few game-changers of their own who make it look easy.
Seasonal Disorder features three different improvisational troupes: the night I attended they were: The Bully Union Presents Holliday Dreams, the Score, and Commonwealth (different WIT troupes perform each night). Each troupe is given roughly 30 minutes in which to improvise scenarios with their own twists.
The Bully Union Presents Holliday Dreams (Thomas Dotstry, Jon Ulrich, Josh Kuderna, Kelly Lloyd, Matt McCall, Dave LaSalle) kicked the evening off, improvising scenarios centered around the holidays, video games, and the perils of fighting a ground war with doughnut grenades and guns that shoot pasta.
Among the funniest of Bully’s creations was a newlywed sketch involving ninjas who fly through honeymoon windows and an uncomfortably appropriate soundtrack to narrate the awkward encounter. The Bully Union is a group with tremendous physical comedy skills, even arming their sketches with vivid side effects.
Closes December 29, 2012
1835 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
1 hour, 20 minutes without intermission
Tickets: $5 – $15
Thursdays thru Saturdays
The Score (Jenny Huftalen, Emlyn McFarland, Mike McFarland, Kate Symes, Matt Berman, Pete Bergen, Joe Uchno) improvised skits based on music from an audience member’s iPod, with results which literally brought tears of laughter to the eyes. How could a group of performers hit the comic roots of a song which they’d never heard before in mere seconds, making even the shortest of tunes play out like perfection? Impeccable timing. The crew began with an uproarious piece in which a college journalist visited a Zimbabwean queen, went on to explore a jogger vs. driver marital argument, and nailed a short sketch in which a honeymooning couple takes a jungle tour in which they get more than they bargained for. The Score gave the strongest showing of the evening with wit that appeared almost effortless.
Commonwealth (Michael Bird, Jules Duffy, Justus Hammond, Jenny Huftalen, Jamie Lantinen, Stewart Wlash, Josh Waytz; Guests: Michelle Swaney, Sean Murphy, Coach: Mark Pagan, Sean Murphy) closed the show. The team approached the evening from a slightly different perspective, asking the audience to name a menial task, then they proceeded to build a long-form improvisational sketch. The task at hand was laundry, and the sketch which developed centered around a sanitarium worker with a mean streak, and the men who loved her (despite it and for it). Team members populated the sanitarium with audience-pleasing characters, appearing sporadically to leer, sneak, and even relieve themselves.
Aside from the laughter, most striking about the troupes were the acts of teambuilding. When the actors aren’t in the middle of the stage, they’re clearly absorbing around the perimeter, thinking 50 feet ahead, ready to jump in with the next line, the new stepping stone to drive the night forward. Seasonal Disorder is a complete evening. Exciting, smart, and of course, hilarious.
Seasonal Disorder by the WIT troupes: The Bully Union Presents Holliday Dreams, the Score, and Commonwealth. Produced by Washington Improv Theatre. Reviewed By Sarah Ameigh
Note – Washington Improv Theatre offers improvisational classes, the next session begins January 7th. Check out Seasonal Disorder. You might even find you have a penchant for the very special kind of theatre magic.