I count only 4 improv shows among the roughly 120 productions in this year’s Fringe and Loser Josh – and I’m sorry to say this is the best thing I’m going to say about the show – is one of them.
In the hands, say, of the great Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway), improv seems easy, but it’s not. It requires actors who have great sensitivity to their audiences, to their scene partners and to their environment. Loser Josh had none of these elements.
Improv actors must know each other’s moves instinctively. These folks seemed to be strangers to each other. Their first instinct frequently appeared to be panic – which they wisely incorporated into their improvised character. Too much panic, though, makes the audience get nervous. And the sensitivity to environment just wasn’t there. There was an incident – “skit” seems too joyous a word – in which one of the troupe was accused of a pernicious murder, and had to guess the identity of the deceased (as well as the murder weapon and the location of the killing) from the clues given by the interrogating detectives. The audience-chosen victim (selected while the accused was out of the room) was former president Dwight D. Eisenhower. “I was driving down the highway!” volunteered the first detective, in an apparent reference to the national highway system instituted during Eisenhower’s administration. Other members of the troupe shouted similarly academic clues, all of them seemingly unaware of the fact that they were performing in Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, where pictures of Eisenhower are all over the place.
That was followed (or proceeded, I forget which) by an interminable and frankly mystifying long-form improv in which scenes from an unsuccessful attempt to sell real estate to the three little pigs were intercut with scenes in which teenage boys broke into their cult-leader father’s cache of porno films. (This was done in response to an audience member’s selection of the Lionel Richie song “Brickhouse”). At some point, it dawned on me that we were watching improv exercises, not improv. The difference is similar to the difference between acting exercises and acting.
There were some amusing moments. I counted six, but your results might vary. Certainly the smallish, subdued audience was of little help to the troupe. With a better audience and more familiarity among the cast members, this show might be a lot of fun. But for now, Josh is a…well, let the title speak for itself.
- Running Time: 60 minutes
- Loser Josh
- Remaining Shows: Friday, July 11 at 5.45 p.m.; Thursday, July 17, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 19, at 5.30 p.m.; Thursday, July 24 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, July 26, at 7.30 p.m.
- Where: Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW The show runs sixty minutes.