The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title On the Spot Improv
Organization Take Note Troupe
Date(s) of show August 8, 2015
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review So…what’s it like at an On the Spot Improv show? I saw my first one many years ago at a private home in rural Loomis, and I figured it was time for an update. These shows are performed monthly, and The Salt Mine in Lincoln has become their regular venue. The Salt Mine is a faith-based charity involved in charitable food donation and other community-focused activities. The part of their facility where this performance took place was a modestly appointed large room that was set with about 100 folding chairs. With a large carpeted dais, it looked like it might be more suited for meetings of a large organization (or maybe even a church service, considering the piano and collection of instruments at stage right) than a performance space. The acoustics of the room weren’t excellent, and in the absence of any sound amplification, I sometimes found myself straining to hear but only occasionally.

On this night, there was an audience of about 60, with teens and even pre-teens far outnumbering the adults. Since this was the 8th of August, the theme of the show was the number 8. The young man who acted as host for the evening started with a comedic patter that included a lot of clever references to “8,” and then he introduced the first of the 8 performers, each of whom introduced the next. In all, there were 4 young women and 4 young men all teenagers.

The show consisted of 2 hours of improv games, a few of which were familiar from other improv shows I’ve seen, but most of which were new to me, with names like “Bad Advice” or “Eight Ways to Die” or “Family Reunion.” As with any improv show, there was a lot of craziness some of it a forced effort to be funny that didn’t quite work. But there was a lot of the show that was genuinely hilarious. I got the sense that there were many regulars (maybe family members) in the audience, and they were probably more responsive than an audience full of unrelated first-timers would have been. Still, I got far more than my $7 worth of laughs.

I’ve seen a lot of talented teenagers performing recently, but this was different. Instead of playing scripted roles, these kids were making things up, drawing on their experience and, in a way, disclosing who they really are. In front of an audience, they have to shed some inhibitions and turn their youthful energy and creativity loose, and I must say that watching them was fascinating. Of course, the whole purpose of the show was to produce spontaneous, unrehearsed humor. And it worked best when they did or said something so impulsively that it took us in the audience by surprise. But even when they weren’t really being funny, it was enjoyable to watch them try.

Two hours (without a real intermission) is a long show for this kind of performing, and I think it would take young people like this to have the endurance for it. But over that long period, I felt I began to “know” each of the improvisers, and I liked what I saw. These were all clever, articulate, personable people, and I bet they’re as “nice” off stage as on. Overall, it was a pleasure to see them perform, and I felt like I was observing some of what’s best in the rising generation.

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