Reviewed by Miranda Hall
Only the keenest imaginations can make the humdrum extraordinary. And finding the humor in the exceptionally commonplace demands even more panache. 5-6-7-8 has a few lessons to learn.
- Though the show changes nightly, there seem to be some basic tenants of improv comedy that the group overlooks consistently. The first? Just say yes. Successful improv actors accept the conditions they receive from their scene partners and then embellish with abandon. Stories advance. People laugh.
Lesson two: funny theatre is fast. But pace means more than quick wit; actors should commit instantly and urgently to objectives and circumstances. Shallow commitment inhibits ingenuity. Scenes curdle. People check their watches.
Welcome to InstaPlay. Going off of an audience member’s suggestion for a character’s name, occupation, and daily habit, the six-member troupe launches into the story of Charlene the social worker who checks Facebook incessantly. An excellent scenic exposition adds compelling detail to Charlene’s office, and each performer contributes pithily to a description of the setting. (The actual set consists of six chairs). But pretty soon Charlene is on stage, fussing about makeup and banking her comedic value on the vocal skepticism of a valley girl archetype. Uh oh.
Luckily the story expands quickly. Each actor devises a character in what becomes the Saga of the Facebook Relationship, and scenes ricochet between bedrooms, Justin Timberlake concerts, and Starbucks cafes. Actor Min Cho is a standout. Fortunately the troupe does a fine job weaving all six characters together and the peppy Tommy McFly contributes an occasional zinger to their banter. But actors reject their partners’ ideas, move laboriously through stale arguments, and overlook outlets for physical comedy.
Lesson learned: very little is exceptional in this batch of banal.
Running time: 60 minutes
- Remaining Show: Fri, July 25 at 10
- Tickets: InstaPlay
- Where: Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th Stret, NW