‘Seasonal Disorder’ at Washington Improv Theater by John Stoltenberg

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Washington Improv Theater has been tickling DC audiences for 15 years. When I discovered the madcap company a while ago, I got hooked on the spot. Hooked as in addicted. Feeling the need for a giddy-fix, I checked out WIT’s current offering, Seasonal Disorder (at Source through December 28th). Did you know laughing can get you high?

'NOX!': Stacy Hayashi, Aaron Mosby, Sean Paul Ellis, Matt Winterhalter, and Brianna Lux. Photo by Mark Chalfant.
‘NOX!’: Stacy Hayashi, Aaron Mosby, Sean Paul Ellis, Matt Winterhalter, and Brianna Lux. Photo by Mark Chalfant.

Like all WIT’s totally unscripted impromptu entertainments, the show I saw happened one night only, to the delight solely of the folks clever enough to be there at the time. Over the course of the evening, 22 performers working in four teams did a stint on stage, and each bunch was buoyantly introduced by Artistic Director Mark Chalfant. Twenty other teams are also in play for Seasonal Disorder; the lineup of three or four gets switched show by show. So not only are there singular treats and surprises packed inside each performance; the casts change completely as well. That these antics are ephemeral is half the fun.

The other half is that each team bounces off a suggestion from the audience and turns it into crackling fresh sketch comedy sometimes so wild and weird you can scarcely catch your breath between laughs. Teams have odd, insider-y names.

The one that opened the show I saw was Mr. Meaner Wraps the Holidays—Jon Chesebro, Charles St. Charles, Stacy Hayashi, Ami Krasner, Satish Pillalamarri, and John Windmueller—who spun a ridiculous yarn in spontaneous rap while one of them beatboxed into a mic.

Next up, The Train School Holiday Special—Ceci De Robertis, Caroline Chen, Jason Mayer, JJ Jackson, Todd Menhinick, Cynthia Van Maanen, Bryan Hughes, and Daniel Brown, coached by Topher Bellavia—took the audience prompt “game show” around hilarious hairpin turns.

Holiday Party Crashing with Nox!—Aaron Mosby, Brianna Lux, Chris Ulrich, Matt Winterhalter, Sean Paul Ellis, and Stacy Hayashi, coached by Rachel Grossman—bungee-jumped off the word “elf” into a silly surreal Santaland scene.

Last but not least, Season Six—Thomas Achilles, Joe Donnelly, Nick Greenough, Murphy McHugh, Charles St. Charles, and Abe Woycke, coached by Mikael Johnson—turned an audience member’s recollection of an awkward holiday memory into inspired lunacy.

You had to be there.

At this time of year when there are enough earnest holiday-themed shows on the boards around town to bestir almost anyone’s inner Ebenezer Scrooge, the honestly earned belly laughs to be had on a crazy-cheap ticket to Seasonal Disorder are a priceless gift of loopy merriment.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

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Seasonal Disorder plays through December 28, 2013 at Washington Improv Theater at Source – 1835 14th St. NW, in Washington, DCFor tickets, purchase them online.

 

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John Stoltenberg
Among the hats John Stoltenberg wears are novelist and author, creative director and communications strategist, and avid theatergoer. Decades ago, in college, he began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile Stoltenberg’s own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then his life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction and what became a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg.