Mosaic / Reviews / Theater / January 26, 2011

Improvapalooza: short-form review

“Improvalooza: Chimprov” started with a shout-out to the iconic opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “2001: a Space Odyssey.” Junior Jack Dryden stood on a black box, in monolithic business casual, narcissistically soaking in the screeches and simian yells of the evening’s improv team members as they jumped around in a surprisingly accurate impression of the chimps from Kubrick’s film. To his credit, Dryden had more of a purpose than simply to leer at the audience; he did do a rather entertaining job of being the master of ceremonies for the evening’s improv competition, assigning points to each team upon the completion of a section, turning a 100 on the chalk board into tits—wait, a smiley face.

The night of short-form improv in the Studio Theatre was organized and put on by junior Ben Lee as part of his “Improvalooza” improv “competition,” which included a long-form show on Friday night (“The Heat of the Moment”) and upcoming final shows of both “Chimprov” and “The Heat of the Moment.” “Chimprov” and “The Heat of the Moment” have been loosely compiled into a competition, meaning that there are separate teams competing against one another for points which are handed out based on applause from the audience. Loosely, though, is the operative word here.

In “Chimprov,” for instance, there are technically four teams of four people each, but for the actual show there were two larger teams of eight people competing, the Bruised Manatees and the Musk Bellies. Furthermore, the points seemed to be awarded somewhat at random with the eventual goal of guaranteeing a tie. In fact, there were ties in both “The Heat of the Moment” and “Chimprov.” When asked about the ties Lee said that “It’s pretty much like pro-wrestling. We’re playing it by ear.”

As far as explaining the arcane team structure goes, Lee continued: “There are four teams of four, switching partners. Maybe just team captains for the final.” Somehow, these fit into the two larger teams of the Bruised Manatees and the Musk Bellies.

Confusing organization aside, most of the actual improv games were pretty good. While some moments were certainly funnier than others and the momentum seemed to run towards the Bruised Manatees, the audience remained engaged throughout the entire show. Some particularly memorable moments were a skit entitled “A scene without a vibrator,” which prominently featured a broken cellphone that only worked on vibrate (you can figure out the rest) and a well done modern retelling of “The Three Little Pigs,” featuring a titanium bunker and a wolf ready to sue the pants off of some pigs.

The audience response was positive overall. For instance, freshman Dan Zekowski said that, “It was really funny. That Duncan guy was the best.”

The improv artists themselves were similarly positive. “I think it went pretty well. I only have positive things to say,” sophomore John Budding said. In response to the tie, Budding continued to say that, “The Tie represents the tie that ties our teams together.”

In the end, despite the confusion sown by an inexplicable competition format, the show was a success for both participants and audience, and it bodes well for the growth of a strong improv community at Knox.

Ben Reeves

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