And that will be the only thing the performance I saw and all future performances will have in common. Because from the audience’s answers to that probing, intentionally vague question, the troupe (aptly named “The Incredulities”) will fashion a 40-minute show made up of usually disconnected but mostly entertaining scenes. All are performed for the first time, right then. And all have something to do with the audience’s answers.
Because of its moment-in-time nature, it feels a bit hollow to review the show at all. What if the troupe can’t create anything amusing or worthwhile next time? Or, more likely, what if the audience suggestions really suck?
Both are possible. In fact, I found it refreshing that in the promotional material for the show, producer Dave Powell admits not everything will work. He’s right. On opening night, not every scene stuck its landing, to borrow a phrase from gymnastics. There were a couple of wobbles, but thankfully no tumbles.
The wonderful thing about improv (and this presentation) is that process is all there, right before your eyes.
The performers don’t run off stage to chat between segments. They are engaged in the scene, even if they aren’t directly in it. Who knows, for instance, when an actor might be needed to portray a hunk of skin hanging off Dick Cheney’s gunshot face?
What made the audience incredulous on opening night were talking rabbits, people who text while driving, that William Shatner can still get women, Octo-mom and people who expose themselves in public. Oh, and the fact that Dick Cheney is still alive.
Those were enough to inspire the troupe — listed in the program as Matt, Allison, Tracy, Kevin, Dave, Brandan and Chris (even though only six performed) — to concoct multiple, ongoing storylines. There’s a mysterious coffee shop that never opens on time and whose employees bicker about secret patents. There’s a nudist father whose science-fiction-obsessed son is embarrassed to be seen with. And there’s the old Cheney tradition of getting shot in the face when you turn 25. Trust me, it made complete sense at the time.
What you look for in an improv troupe is trust and familiarity, and the Incredulities display both. The actors are comfortable enough with each other to enter scenes and go with the flow, regardless of where it is headed. It was nice to see them, when not in the scene, genuinely enjoy their fellow castmates’ creations. The troupe also embraced current world and pop culture events. Some jokes are timeless, sure. But it makes something funnier when it’s topical. It shows off the immediacy of the art form.
On a personal note, I begged for it in our preview material and I’ll do so again: If you make an audience suggestion, let it be worthwhile. The performers are good, but precious few comedians can derive laughs from obscure inside jokes and “talking rabbit” suggestions. Honestly.
Performed at Media Bridges through June 5. See performance dates and preview here.
Also check out the CityBeat podcast featuring "The Incredulites."