Tilt performers use games as the framework for creating theater. In "Slide Show" three actors create "slides" that are then interpreted by a panel of "experts" on our night, an authority on scuba diving. In another game the actors line up and tell a story suggested by an audience member. The title? "We Used to Be Charcoal Briquettes." The catch is that there's a "conductor" who indicates who's doing the telling at any given moment. Anyone who stammers, makes no sense, cracks up, etc., is immediately condemned to "death" by the audience. In still another game, actors concoct a simple scene, such as a guy in a doctor's waiting room and the nurse who comes to check him in, and then perform it in the style of various film genres (such as film noir, sci-fi, or Muppets) that the audience has shouted out.
Comedy like this could resemble embarrassing parlor-game shenanigans but in Tilt's hands it doesn't, because these people are really good at it. Improv is hard. I know. I have tried it once. It requires an ability to think on many levels at the same time, to go full force with whatever situation or line is handed to you, to switch gears on a dime, and to be funny all the while.
Thankfully, I don't have to do it myself. I can just watch Tilt, which performs at the Ann Arbor Civic Theater on Saturday, February 9.
[Originally published in February, 2002.]