Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Mindbending Hilariousness — Imprō Theatre's 'Twilight Zone UnScripted'
Can you imagine? Well, you don't have to! Just transport yourself to Burbank's Falcon Theatre for a night of improv brilliance, courtesy of the immensely talented troupe that is Imprō Theatre. This time 'round they're paying off-the-top-of-their-heads respect to Rod Sterling's legendary TV series Twilight Zone.
While the laughs don't come as fast and hard as their previous (and future) outings into the melodramatic world of Jane Austen, TZU is great for other reasons, namely tone and flow. Firstly, the troupe nails the feel of the iconic show: the Gee Wilikers innocence, the eeriness of a wish fulfilled, the panic you feel when logic and science crash all round you. On top of that, these artisans are able to sense the invisible arc of the story, entering and exiting when it'll aid plot development; teach a lesson on humanity without being too on the nose; and wrap everything up in a tidy Sterling monologue of a bow. Lesser actors do worse with a solid script and three months of rehearsal.
Lauren Rose Lewis) is given a four-leaf clover, after which everything in her life begins going right. She wins an enormous sum of money in the Bingo game she isn't even playing, her brother is found alive, and a crashed plane misses her house but manages to strike oil in her backyard. Meanwhile, everything goes wrong for her wannabe fiancee (Ryan "Oops, I fell to one knee" Smith). He gave her the clover, and all of his luck... In Beautician, twin aliens (Smith, and the insanely creative Stephen Kearin, who hilariously look nothing alike) visit a single mother in her beauty parlor, seeking human hair to fuel and repair their stranded saucer. One of the funniest lines of the night goes to Kelly Holden-Bashar, who after being told one of the E.T.'s can stay behind to be Little Timmy's surrogate father, looks the guys up and down, and says, "Do I get to pick which one?"
Again, my favorite Imprō bits are when — in midst of weaving the aforementioned brilliance — the cast never passes on a chance jab themselves and each other for a missed cue, anachronistic reference, for forgetting another character's name, or almost breaking character while holding back laughs. Even the audience gets a ribbing for vague answers to pointed requests. Name an occasion that brings people together. Babies!, shouts the young man seated next to me. What about babies? I dunno. Okay... we'll just go with the vague occasion of babies. Cue the episode where four amnesiac neighbors are gathered in a living room with four mysterious, identical newborns. Or how about when someone in the front row gives "Classical" as a historical period. Classical? Can you define that, please? Seventeen hundreds. Now, do you see a spoof of the Founding Fathers in this episode? Please. The Imprō-ers never play it safe. Off we teleport into 18th Century Germany to follow the hapless, unknown composer Fredrick Witt...uh, burger and brother Hans (the accented and awesome duo of Brian Lohmann and Floyd VanBuskirk, respectively).
Tragedy of tragedies, only one weekend remains of TZU's run — though there's an added Saturday matinee, so 4 days and 20 short episodes to go. Get your tix here or by calling the Falcon Theatre box office at (818) 955-8101.
* Photos by Chelsea Sutton and Dan O'Connor.
LA theater reviews by LA Theater Critic.