Improv is difficult to do well. That was in evidence on Sunday, when four members of Impro Theatre attempted to tell a story, in the style of Shakespeare, with just the words, “wishing well” to start them off.
Five of the thirteen member company which formed in 1988 in Los Angeles were on hand. Included among Impro’s credits are Ovation Award winning actors and directors, company members from the American Conservatory Theatre, the Old Globe Theatre and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
Andrew, (Brian Jones) a young man sent to see his uncle (Floyd Van Buskirk) and seek knowledge is given a special coin by his mother (Michele Spears). Upon finding his uncle, he is, once again, introduced to his cousin (Kari Coleman), a childhood playmate, and a romance develops between them. Lauren Lewis plays an hysterical, aged servant who tries to serve tea with creaking joints and shaking hands while imparting ancient wisdom.
Andrew is taken by his uncle to a tavern where we find two French women, Lauren Lewis and Michele Spears, newly arrived in England. At one point Michele forgets her French accent and very cleverly covers it up. They are being wooed by Jones and Van Buskirk who have heard tales of French women. Andrew tells his uncle that he wants to have carnal knowledge of all God’s creatures. Thus came the funniest line of the entire improvisation: “Carnal knowledge of all God’s creatures? Would you put woodchuck’s down your breeches? asks Van Buskirk.
The plot and the company seemed to tire during the second act. They kept the audience alert by reminding them what roles each of the actors were playing. Unlike the long-lived, constantly changing casts of The Groundlings who do a number of different improvisations during each show, it seemed a task beyond the company’s abundant skill to keep the plot and the material fresh and interesting.
Shakespeare is performed so rarely in Los Angeles that it can be a distinct pleasure for fans to hear the language spoken, even if in jest or badly rhymed sentences.
Take a chance, next week’s shows may be the funniest yet!
Shakespeare UnScripted runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Sunday, March 14 at the Theatre Asylum, located at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets available online at www.plays411.com/shakespeareunscripted