Joseph Scrimshaw's Tragedy of You is interactive theater that spares its audience the dread of being accosted and sucked into the action involuntarily. Instead, audience members filing in are asked if they want to be considered as the subject of the night's comedy. A name is picked at random, then Scrimshaw grills the chosen soul with questions, dutifully writing the answers on a dry-erase board. He takes a moment to absorb the information, then launches into a five-act Shakespeare parody that speeds through a sparse story with crackling pace. Scrimshaw tackles rhyming couplets in a couple of asides but wisely uses plainer language in the improvised segments, essentially betting with each show that he can plug in his subject's replies to the skeleton of his plot in an exercise of comedic Mad Libs. The action, broadly, places the night's subject as the ruler of a mythical kingdom (Scrimshaw takes a stab at imitating the audience member's gait and speech patterns) beset by intractable enemies.
Because of our protagonist's fatal flaw (natch), the kingdom is placed in further peril, the court jester mocking and scoffing while events flow toward their inexorable state of awfulness. Much of the fun is in watching Scrimshaw make up the mood of the thing on the fly, poking fun at himself, the audience member, and the very structure of Shakespearean drama. He flows from one character to the next with manic intensity, abetted on keyboards by Dennis Curley, and generally works himself into a lather of verbiage and subversive asides (his portrayal of a bad-ass military man somehow bursting through the veil of satire and coming out on the other side). Any more than 70 minutes of this stuff might begin to wear terribly, but Scrimshaw has the good sense to plow through at a break-neck pace and leave us tickled by his construct. If we're never in danger of rolling in the aisles with hilarity, we've laughed spontaneously more than a few times—without being conscripted into it against our will. Fridays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 24, $12-$14. 810 West Lake St., Minneapolis.