Improvising a play
by Patrick Dunn
From the February, 2018 issue
There's a certain pleasure to writing a theater review in which spoiling plot details is no concern because the audience will never see the same show twice. That's true of any show at Pointless Brewery & Theatre, but the improv venue's new show, Cue This, takes the concept to the next level. While typical shows at Pointless and other improv venues mix short improv games with some longer scenes, the performers in Cue This improvise an entire forty-five-minute play before your eyes.
At the beginning of Cue This, an audience volunteer spins a game show-style wheel to choose the genre for the evening. Buddy comedy, romantic comedy, and film noir are among the genres in play. Audience members then help to randomly determine light and sound cues, which are listed on a sheet distributed to them but unknown to the performers.
And then the fun begins as the seven players take the stage to introduce their characters. On opening night, the genre was film noir, and the cast of improvised characters proved entertaining and dynamic from moment one. Allyson Miko, Katie Parzych, and Corene Ford drew immediate laughs by introducing themselves respectively as Vera Vierson, a thickly accented Russian spy; the twitchy Benny the Snitch; and Sharon, an oversexed "bad girl."
An enjoyably ludicrous crime drama ensued, concerning the efforts of the town police chief (Matt Swartz) to determine the source of a black-market drug known as "jazz cigarettes," available in both black and brown varieties. (Initially a mystery, the narcotic was revealed to be plain old marijuana halfway through the show.)
The players, some of them members of Pointless's resident cast of improvisers, displayed impressive dedication to long-form, collaborative comic storytelling. Even the most unfortunate flubs turned into hilarious running jokes, as when the police chief bellowed, regarding the jazz cigarettes, "The blacks, the browns-I want 'em all out of my town!" Swartz turned beet red as soon as the words left his mouth, the audience howled (and
groaned), and Swartz's character became a not-so-subtle racist for the rest of the show.
Although the process of selecting and then keeping track of the performance's lighting and sound cues proved a bit confusing for the audience on opening night, stage manager Peter Felsman made delightful use of the effects. The cast interpreted a "roaring monster" sound effect as a lion, introducing the invisible beast first to intimidate certain characters before it was unleashed to wreak havoc in the final scene.
Thanks to the professionalism and creativity of the cast and minimal crew, Cue This is a riotously funny show with a uniquely addictive side effect. Having seen their take on film noir, it's hard not to want to return to see the cast tackle romantic comedy-or whatever else gets cued up for the next show.
Cue This runs every Friday through February 9.
[Originally published in February, 2018.]
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