Spotlight: Improv-a-Go-Go, Huge Wednesdays

Charlie Howe
Brave New Workshop; 612.332.6620

Huge Wednesdays
Old Arizona Theater;


The prospect of pulling off improvisational comedy reminds me of a description I once read of flying a helicopter: It's like balancing a ball bearing on a two-by-four in a windstorm. Though they introduce themselves as the "lumbering dinosaurs" of Twin Cities comedy, the five-person Brave New Workshop cast remain the standard-bearers--they manage to flirt with anarchy while spoofing their own ostensible wholesomeness (a recent show had Lauren Anderson take the spotlight to declare, with absurdist sweetness, "The last time I straddled something was by accident"). Also working well with others are Resist Butch, consisting of Butch Roy (pictured) and Jill Bernard, who add a punky aesthetic to the mix and enjoy tweaking audience expectations--at one recent show, Roy abashedly delivered a 45-second monologue about looking for discount air fares directly after 9/11. The sensibility is the one preached by improv Odin Del Close, who lit upon the mystical insight that improvisation had to be essentially positive, with the performers working together in an existential moment to discover the relationship between their personas rather than going for cheap gags. This selflessness is manifested in the work of Fringe favorites Joe Bozic and Mike Fotis, also known as Ferrari McSpeedy, who corner a sort of goofy-Dada side of the Brave New Workshop troupe, and they also work with Huge Theater (which has found a home for its Wednesday shows at the Old Arizona Theater). Bozic, Fotis, and their compatriots in Twin Cities improv rarely give in to scene-stealing temptation or ego-corrosion, even while spinning mad off-the-cuff scenarios, and the end result is an in-the-moment inclusiveness that draws the audience into the performance and produces both laughs and a nice buzzing in the mind. My forays into the improv scene also answered my question regarding why I don't see more young people in local theaters--they're at these comedy shows instead.

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