The last outing of the Impro Theatre Company for me was The Western Un-Scripted. The beauty of this band of actors lies in that unspoken glance, a love of the Theatre, taking the suggestion to ‘have fun with it’ deeply to heart and to stay in the moment. Having an audience who loves you is very helpful, too. Having the great musical skills on hand that the music director / Piano Man Peter Smith brings to the mix is vital. It’s truly wonderful and so much fun.
|Ensemble Sondheim Unscripted Photo: Jill Mamey|
Having seen good improv and marginal improv and disastrous improvisation, I’m not all together a fan of the medium. When it’s done well, well.. that’s amazing. The issue is ego. When ego leaps in, then the ensemble takes a hike. In tonight’s version of Sondheim Unscripted, that never once happened even with the direction turning to the Gods on Mount Olympus... and Down Below as well. The scholarship and skill of this crew is undeniable. One thing that I’d have appreciated would have been A Chorus Line sort of introduction with the players holding up headshots that had their names in bold type. I was blown away by especially by Michele Spears, who is a founder of the company and credited with being a co-director. However, the ‘direction’ comes from within the ensemble.
What happens in Toluca Lake at The Falcon, will NOT stay in Toluca Lake because when the word gets out what a good time this company is having, The Falcon will be packed and the audience will be enchanted and probably making plans to come back for more just to see if the company can top themselves.
As in most Improv shows, we need an object.. what? A Crock Pot? And four notes for the score. I don’t know much about music but a B flat made things wonky in the best of ways.
To recount the plot, is a challenge. Somehow we wound up with Greek Gods on Mount Olympus and Hades down below hustling for all he’s worth a slap and tickle with Minerva (Spears). The ensemble found its way into Broadway tunes and made them work! One hopes that the group records their performances and may consider workshopping some of them into finished pieces.
As Zeus decides to abandon Olympus, he utters, “Eternity Sucks…” The existential nature of the show with Gods and mortals mixing it up shows the scholarship and extraordinary skills of these talented actors.
I'm just listing the credited cast. I adore Spears. She played Minerva… We have eight actors and Smith at the keyboard. The eight are among the following: Daniel Blinkoff, Ted Cannon, Kari Coleman, Josh Dean, Lisa Fredrickson, Kelly Holden Bashar, Brian Michael Jones, Brian Lohmann, Dan O’Connor, Edi Patterson, Jen Reiter, Paul Rogan, Cory Rouse, Ryan Smith, Floyd VanBuskirk, Patty Wortham!
Needless to say, but I must: To see improvisation at this level with the special bent of a dedicated theme on an amazing trompe d’oeil set by Sandra Burns and fly by the seat of the pants lighting by Leigh Allen, it’s a must see. It’s what theatre is supposed to be: entertaining, enlightening, exceptionally smart and thought provoking.. though the laughs may trump the thinking part. These actors are like a well oiled machine with silly putty for gears that may head in an odd direction, but never too far afield for someone to not grab the brass ring and make hay with it if you like to mix your metaphors! Must see. Must! Discounts for returnees!
IMPRO THEATRE’S SONDEHEIM UNSCRIPTED
The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Through September 27, 2015
Tickets and Information: 818 955 8105