2018 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Unscripted’

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By Shawn Reilly Simmons

“I don’t want to sit in front. I don’t want to get picked on,” a woman said to me nervously as we chose our seats, about to experience Unscripted, a two-man improvisational one-act play created on the spot by Joe Uchno and Rich Nyman from the theater troupe VI Lenin.

They may have heard the woman’s comments, because they chose her to kick off the play by telling them her favorite song. From there, “Norwegian Wood” began.

Nyman began by focusing on a wooden piano bench, and the plot moved forward from there. We were introduced to two friends, one down on his luck and one seemingly successful. After a few awkward exchanges that uncover how bleak both of their lives actually are, the two offer to switch lives for a week. One is a broke, divorced dad of two kids who clearly favor their mother’s new boyfriend, and the other is an overworked attorney, who has become so consumed with pursuing his career he has no time to enjoy the lifestyle his hard work has afforded him.

The result is an amusing mash-up of Freaky Friday and It’s a Wonderful Life, where we are reminded once again that before you wish you had someone else’s life, you should walk a mile in their shoes. Or in this case, pretend to be your friend for a week.

The remarkable thing about this show was that there were no take backs, course corrections, or stumbled lines. Uchno and Nyman have been performing improvisational theater together and independently for years, and their easy rapport comes through clearly on the stage. The pair moved seamlessly from scene to scene, even bringing forward minor characters to flesh out the plot. Cues given earlier in the performance were remembered and revisited, my favorite being when one of the children was described as slothful early on, then near the end of the play, Uchno lay sprawled on the piano bench, too tired to sit up and listen to his temporary father scold him.

This was a very enjoyable show, presented by two performers who have perfected the art of reacting to another person’s cues, prompts, and body language. You never know where the road will take you during an improvisational show, but it’s always fun to see where you’ll end up.

Running Time: About 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Unscripted, presented by VI Lenin, plays through July 25, 2018, at Christ United Methodist Church, 900 4th Street SW, Washington, DC. For tickets, go online.

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