By Kelly Luck
There is improv, and there is Improv. In the right hands improv can be an exciting and, yes, extremely funny medium. Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding could plop down in front of a couple of microphones and spin an entire cockeyed universe of eccentrics. The Second City of Chicago (and Toronto) pretty much became the farm team for American comedy in the 70s. When it’s done well, improv can be brilliant.
The Awkward Attic Ensemble out of St. Louis performs a four-person improv show broken up into two parts. The second part, “short-form” improvisation consists of a series of “structures” (that is, frameworks around which improvisations may be made) which are seeded with idea suggestions from the audience. Now, if you’ve ever seen the kind of performance that depends on audience suggestions, you might be able to guess how this is going to play out. There were no surprising audience suggestions.
The long-form exercise for the afternoon was entitled “impropera”: basically an ‘opera’ composed on the spot to the audience’s choice of topic. In practice, this boiled down to twenty minutes of recitatives that almost immediately wandered loose of their moorings and left the topic (bourbon, for those curious) far behind. The two performers would warble out a meandering scene, then switch poses and do it again.
If you enjoy this sort of thing, then assuredly this is the sort of thing you will enjoy. And some in the audience clearly did. You can take a chance. And make better suggestions. It is, remember, improv.