I am an actress, but improv – although entirely and absolutely necessary to act organically – was not something I had ever tackled in and of itself, on it’s own turf. Thinking creatively on your feet with wit and craft is its own beast.
So this is how it works: a small group of brave souls willing to utilize the power of their spontaneous ingenuity perform skits without so much as a clue to what they’ll be doing five seconds before the thought is translated into action. And as each member adds his or her flavor to the soup, it is up to the troupe as a whole to work that bit into the skit to ultimately develop a mad lib story. It requires the ensemble to be totally empathetic of one another, completely present in the moment and to carry a stable sense of confidence that they are safe within the group to contribute.
The show I saw this night of Seasonal Disorder consisted of three different troupes performing for about twenty minutes each. There are 27 shows featured during the run performing anywhere from 10 to 25 min on a rotating schedule. There are other shows in the run of performances that comprise Seasonal Disorder.
The first thing I noticed was that these cats were all dressed uniformly. Nice touch. They had eleven vignettes starting with a clever study of legos in which Dave LaSalle gave a poignant analogy I didn’t write down because I thought I would remember it (Do I truly ask too much of myself?? ). I was holding my breath for Kelly Lloyd, who finally let loose in the third scenario in which her Father wouldn’t share her own video game with her that was hilarious. Thomas Dotstry was a standout throughout, but I thought particularly so when he stepped in here and caricatured Kelly Lloyd’s game control settings. Genius. Josh Kuderna (aka Davy Jones from The Monkeys) cracked a set about two old men wide open when he opportunely slid in a homosexual advancement no one was expecting. I almost peed in my pants! At one point, the whole cast laid down on the floor draped over one another and began their Holiday Dreams. I got the impression they represented the presents under the tree and I found myself hoping that Matt McCall was a gift addressed to me. Jon Ulrich and fusilli. You had to have been there. Funny stuff man.
Look, I don’t know all that much about this genre, but these guys borrowed a Mp3 from a audience member and designed nine skits around randomly chosen songs from a strangers musical taste. I thought it was brilliant! And to raise the stakes just a little higher, they inadvertently chose a player filled with music indigenous of Africa. Joe Uchno jumped right in, or er, paddled right into the scene via canoe. It was as smooth a move as I imagined the crystal clear water to be. And not that this was her crowning moment, but I personally loved Emlyn McFarlands hand puppet of a bird in this scene which, to me, completed it (I’m keen on details) Kate Symes did get her crowning moment in the next song when the men fell to their feet around her in worship. She was comically unaffected. Up until this point, Matt Berman had lingered in the shadows but with the next song – he proved to be a power player when took control as a Mexican Drug Lord who liked to kill and whose soldiers were morons. I almost peed in my pants again! It was hysterical! Pete Bergen, who handled the music box for most of the sets and is one of the coaches finally got in as a staff member in a hotel that thinks it’s funny to scare you to death – a skit prompted by Michael Bird’s wonderful momentum. Michael McFarland showed his peeps exactly how a scene is closed when he whipped out a “I think we need to break up” to Emlyn McFarland’s random ramblings. That guy deserves a raise. Or at least to be paid.
What I loved was that each troupe had it’s own coordinates and Commonwealth, unlike the previous two, took one subject matter from the audience and developed one singular skit around it. That is a very daring, difficult and long commitment. At first it dragged and I really worried for them, but they found their groove when Josh Waytz prowled into the scene and got (and kept) the room vibrating. He was hysterical and well timed throughout. Michelle Swaney carried a lot of weight as the main character in which the entire story revolved and who never got to step offstage to regroup. Which, I suspect, is all very confining. But as the lead, I would have liked to have seen her be a lot more venturesome. Michael Bird, speaking of momentum, graced us again with his high volume comedy of expression and brought in much needed energy. Justus Hammond brought some depth to the scenario and it was a welcome anchor. And then there was the Leerer, Stewart Walsh, who never really fully got his foot in the door, but was able to poke his head through the metaphorical window. It was all still a side-splitter despite the rough patches. And kudos to them for tackling higher stakes and inspiring plenty of laughter.
Reading through WIT’s mission and marketing statements is serious stuff. Not because its solemn but because the principles of their particular form of art is contingent on all the things we should all hope to embrace more of. It offers the development of laughter within yourself to inspire in others through being more aware, encouraging, reassuring, available, loyal and steadfast to those around you. If you don’t believe – check out the website for yourself.
I left the theater feeling GREAT! I smiled all the way home.