Jane Austen Unscripted
Doing improv is no joke. It may look easy, which is the sheer beauty of it, but it will definitely make you lose your mind if caught off guard for even a second. You have to be on your feet for the unexpected, come up with sharp and witty repartee at the snap of a finger and, most importantly, you have to be smart-ass funny. The fine ensemble of Improv Theatre and C.A.F.E (Combined Art Form Entertainment) slay all those dragons. These highly talented, intense and let loose-kinda performers are always on top of their game. This isn’t easy when you’re dealing with an 18th century novelist who is well known for her dramatic pieces of literature with slight overt gestures of laughter and humor. No doubt, Ms. Austen was privy to the subtle hilarity of the aristocracy crowd behind the Victorian style closed doors.
Jane Austen Unscripted is a delicious combination of humorous wordplay and stiff upper lip mannerisms. Separately, the two are fine but together they make a fiery collaboration. Ms. Greene, played by blonde dynamo Lisa Frederickson, asks the audience for a random topic to work on the stage. After weeding out the bad from the highly ridiculous suggestions, one fool yelled out Proposition 8, the choice of adultery was picked, of course, a wise and better choice. On this night, it was all about jealously, the next time and the time after that will differ. It all starts with the Greene’s bibliophile daughter Eleanor (played by the wonderful Michele Spears). She shakes the rigidity sewn into the Greene fabric of propriety when Ms. Greene discovers Eleanor reading Scandal and Adultery. She goes to her husband Mr. Greene (wonderfully played by Stephen Kearin) to take care of the situation. He does so, all too willingly while having great fun. Eleanor doesn’t see a problem with the story’s contents nor does her cute, bookish sister Cynthia (Edi Patterson). The most animated sibling is Diana (Lauren Rose Lewis) who’s always flitting from room to room in high dramatic fashion. And just like a page from Austen’s novel, miscommunication plays a core role among the bourgeois.
The Greene family is invited by their friend Penelope Grey (Mollie Taxe) and family to the Hampshire Estate for a long weekend. When the Greene’s arrive, a lot of misunderstandings spring up causing more of a confusing stir. Love doesn’t get revealed until all the arguments, eloquent insults and door slamming occurs. Austen takes the line made famous by Lysander in Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he said, “the course of true love never did run smooth.” Love takes so many turns and loops it makes one nauseous before slowing down and reeling in the target. .
Directors/producers Dan O’Connor and Paul Rogan must have felt they fell into a comedy whirlpool trying to keep the story going while hysterics pop out from every corner. They did a fantastic job keeping the momentum going through the show. Not even the actors know what will be said next. The razor-sharp comedy is something to be savored. What is wonderful to see is how each actor feeds on the other’s humor creating more side-splitting reaction from the audience. They made Jane Austen look cool and soon copies of her work, she has five novels that are well known but wrote over 30 others, will land on laps of individuals sipping their lattes while enjoying the characters. The rapidity of the show’s dialogue and movement resembles a great and heated tennis match, where one hit deserves another. The classics never looked so good.
Jane Austen Unscripted, runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. until Sunday, February 28th at Theatre Asylum located at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd, in Hollywood. Tickets available by calling (323) 960-7753 or online at www.plays411.com/janeaustenunscripted. Tickets are $20.