The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title KAPOW! The Superhero Comedy Adventure
Organization Blacktop Comedy
Date(s) of show November 2015
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Blacktop Comedy is all about spontaneity. Every show is completely made-up on the spot and none of the comedy is rehearsed or planned out: that's the nature of improv. But to help keep things fresh and give a framework for the creativity, Blacktop Comedy has had thematic shows: Western-themed, horror, even shows featuring belly dancing. These themed shows are sometimes offered once a week for a month, or on some different schedule. Then they end and sometimes they are revived. And new themed shows frequently appear on the organization’s schedule. During the month of November, the themed show was "KAPOW! The Superhero Comedy Adventure," and I attended the next-to-last show of the month.

There was dramatic music playing when we entered the Blacktop Comedy Theater, and the audience took up most of the 50 seats that were set up. We were a diverse crowd about as many men as women, a sprinkling of retirees, a few teens, and one child. When the show started, each of the 6 actors (5 men and 1 woman) introduced themselves, and then gave the audience a category ("Give me an example of a fruit"), and then they improvised a scene, lasting from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, based on the audience’s suggestion.

All the actors have a comic sense and quick wit, and each of these scenes drew laughs. "Quick wit" is perhaps an understatement because the actors had less than 5 seconds to come up with an idea based on the audience’s suggestion. They shared the initiative among themselves, but the speed of their creativity was pretty impressive. Then each of these scenes was cut off by the person manning the lights, finishing on a high note when possible, and saving someone who was heading for a dead end. This kept things moving and maintained a high level of energy for both actors and audience.

The audience itself was primed for fun, so they were quick to laugh (especially the group of teen-age girls near me). The audience was also quick with suggestions, and the actors never pressed members of the audience or made fun of them personally when they occasionally interacted with them. Now and then they got some really big laughs from all of us. The actors seemed to be all in their 20s and 30s, and there were a few references to popular culture that went over this retiree's head, though most of the people around me seemed to "get it.” I'd say that everyone would find a lot funny in the show, but no one would find everything funny.

The first half of the performance lasted about 45 minutes, and after a 15-minute intermission, the thematic part of the show began. The "players" (and improv performers really are playing) gave us some ground rules: we were supposed to shout out sound effects when prompted by someone displaying a sign ("pow" or "smash," for example). And then they took suggestions that defined the scene (name of the town, how the performers get their special power, the name of the book from which the superhero story came, etc.). With that, the extended improv scene began, with a few props and costume items (e.g. a cape and funny hats), projections on the screen behind the players, and occasional music and sound effects.

I'd say the set must have lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Not every idea worked, of course, and things occasionally got pretty weird, but that's what happens when imagination takes over and is implemented on the spot. There was no question that the audience had a good time, and the players, for all that they were "playing" worked hard. When it was over, host Paul Burke, invited the audience to join them for a nitecap and games at a nearby watering hole. It was a nice touch to include us in the post-performance fun. After all, we were all part of the show.

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