The initial setup shadows the plotline for the original Earthquake film almost point for point: an architect named Ketch Hale, played here with a sharp sense of timing by Jason Sudy, argues with his wife Helen (Erin Prosser) about the hotel he's built for her mogul father (Jon Calig) on a notorious fault line, whose seismic activity is designed to be the guests’ main attraction.
Helen also accuses Hale of having an affair with the hotel’s nurse (Celia Adams), and it becomes a running joke that Hale has managed to sleep with all the other female characters as well, including an environmental activist protesting the hotel (Jenn Ntiri) and a waitress turned singer (Gina Weisshaar), really a spy who has planted a bomb designed to set off a quake larger than the structure was built to handle.
The other characters are equally absurd, including a gay hired hand (John Kuhn) who has the ability to predict earthquakes after being transfused with the blood of a dog, and a Native American (Mike Miller), who shows more white skin than might be pleasant for some audience members.
As is standard with the disaster genre, it takes some time to introduce all the characters and relationships, ridiculous as they are.
Much of the humor has a sexual slant, some of it handled as secondary business, as when Nurse Nancy converses with Hale after their tryst while cleaning a seemingly endless series of naughty toys and tools.
What works here is the troupe’s ability to keep pumping the material for whatever joke can be found. Not all of the humor connects, but it’s a rare comedy that lands every jest just right. And there is enough here to keep the laughter at the right level.
What’s missing in Aftershock! is the sense of the troupe driving the show as a unit. Sudy’s deft energy isn’t shared by the rest of cast, and the scenes have a tendency to deflate when he isn’t the focal point. The group hasn't yet found the level of rapport that makes improv-based work (I have to say it) so earth-shattering.
Special mention should also be made regarding the sound design. The old cinematic tracks used for scene transitions were cheesy perfection, and the booming bass used for the earthquakes were a spot-on imitation of the Sensurround effect used in the ’70s. The parody of the sappy “Morning After” theme song from Poseidon Adventure was delightfully dopey as well.
(Get upcoming performance dates and venue details here.)