“Seasonal Disorder” is an improv grab bag of sorts. Depending on which night a person shows up, between now and December 31st, the audience can end up seeing everything from comedy to drama, from a hallucinogenic drug trial to a murder mystery set in a small town.
Hope for that murder mystery.
Courtesy of troupe-within-a-troupe Citizens’ Watch, the sketch has the audience guessing who is responsible for a crime of passion. The conceit is borrowed by UK/US television hit Broadchurch. Not having seen Broadchurch personally, it’s hard to know precisely how many details are borrowed from the drama, but it seems to lean more on the series’ tone and set-up rather than lift specific characters from the show. WIT’s audience gets introduced to each character at the onset, and prompts from the audience help further define the set-up (in Sunday night’s performance, the actors were stuck incorporating such details as a mysterious lighthouse, an experimental Taco Bell factory, and the world’s most ridiculous town name, Wankersville, into the storyline). The murderer is determined at random by the throw of a dice, and only the actor embodying the criminal knows who did it — at least until the sketch’s conclusion.
Audiences used to the traditional, freewheeling and silly style of improv will find Citizens’s Watch delivering something more structured and serious — and that’s not a bad thing. Dramatic music and lighting help further the more somber tone of the mystery, though the proceedings still get peppered with moments of laughter and spontaneity. Characters are fleshed out through paired-off scenes which explore their back stories and potential motivations for the crime, as well as flashbacks to their interactions with the now-dead victim.
closes December 21, 2017
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The sketch showcases in particular the dry intensity of performer Ryan Brookshire, the manic energy of actor Alex Kazanas and the natural ease of actress Nina Hsu, each among the crime’s many suspects. The actors do an excellent job giving each character a credible motive and keeping the audience guessing — the audience was able to correctly determine the murderer Sunday evening, even if this critic was sitting there convinced the town’s “only doctor within 15 miles” with a red-herring secret had perpetrated the crime.
Citizen’s Watch’s tidy, gripping murder mystery received a lead-in Sunday night from another, more traditional improv sketch, which saw performers Sam Bonar and Zach Beattie testing an experimental, hallucinogenic drug on an unwitting audience member. The pair of actors have a fun chemistry together, but the absurd sketch, which relies on sound and lighting effects to presumably create a state of panic and confusion within the mind of the drug guinea pig, was meandering and a little nonsensical, peppered with awkward pauses and uneven pacing (it was also tricky to consistently hear any performer not directly facing the audience). “Seasonal Disorder” though, is worth seeing even with the possibility of a sketch misfire, especially with the talented Citizen’s Watch in the mix — after all, the show’s theme is embracing the erratic chaos of the holiday season, and that usually means warts and all.
Seasonal Disorder. With Sam Bonar, Zach Beattie, and Citizen’s Watch (Jamie Bingner, Ryan Brookshire, Darnell Eaton, Justine Hipsky, Nina Hsu, Alex Kazanas, Jess Lee, Brianna Lux, Beth Lyons, Dan Miller, Joe Randazzo, Julia Rocchi, Katie Rush, Eli Sloan. Citizen’s Watch directed by Michael Hendrix, Assistant Director Dan Miller, Tech Director Rymond Simeon. Hosted by Elaine Colwell. Produced by Washington Improv Theater . Reviewed by Missy Frederick.