Washington Improv Theater goes where they have never gone before with Lore, a long-form improv show that explores the history of story itself by making storytelling the subject of each skit. WIT is a DC institution with regular improv nights and classes for thousands in this unique and challenging form of improvisation. In Lore, Director Mark Chalfant has created a menu of storytelling forms – everything from Bazooka Joe comic strips, to epics, to fan fiction – and has the audience pick a form and often a location or a character and they go from there.
The format of the improv changes from skit to skit. For some skits the cast stands in a semi-circle just telling a story, for others they get fully into character to act things out, for others they create silent tableaus…or not so silent tableaus, and more. The pop-up book was ingenious. The only set is the menu of storytelling options for the audience to choose and the only props available are a couple of stools. That’s all they need.
The cast members Sam Bonar, Jon Chesebro, Catherine Deadman, Jules Duffy, Michael Hendrix, Brianna Lux, Laura Spadanuta, Chris Ulrich, and director Mark Chalfant have great chemistry and are generous and kind to each other – bouncing off ideas and making everyone look good. My favorite sketch of the night came from menu option “die, die, die.” I won’t spoil what exactly that means, but we ended up with a sketch about a young adult named Jessalyn with her alcoholic mother and the popular girl Tiffani whom she maimed. They captured the tropes of the young adult novel craze perfectly.
In every skit, two to three actors take the stage as the rest wait by the sides and quickly tap someone on the shoulder to change the scene or just call out “Cut to…” whatever good idea the last actor had. This is a very ambitious work and there were a lot of story forms to explore and some we didn’t even get to even as the show ran a few minutes long, but as always with improv, the best moments were totally unexpected for both performers and the audience – from the off the wall suggestions to a bit of humor they got to exploit again. This is a night of good, though not exactly clean, fun and it’s like getting twenty Fringe shows in one hour – hundreds of characters and laughs by the minutes with these fun performers.
Running time: 70 minutes.