Rebecca Hopkins, Director and Coordinator
Goldstein Cabaret, Keating and Gompertz Theatres
Palm Ave. and Cocoanut, Sarasota, 941-366-9000
July 12 and 13, 2013

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

I was able to review 10 of the 15 groups, from four states, who played various types of improv over two days starting from 4 p.m. and going  to past 10.  The crowning performance was a complete 95 minute play by The Improvised Shakespeare Co. of Chicago, followed by an All Play featuring performers from all the groups.  The last allowed me to see some of FST’s Vintage Whine, Smith & I, Sick Puppies Comedy, Stacked, and The Third Thought which I couldn’t work into the heavy schedule of 40 to 50 minutes per act.  Maybe next year? All in all, this was the best yet of the Sarasota Improv Festivals—and even the Closing Night Party, held in the dining area of The Gompertz and Court Cabaret, offered improved food, friendship, and fun. Oh, yes, there was impromptu improv into the wee hours!
FST Improv - Sarasota
               Various theater games included an imagined first meeting of a 26-year married audience couple showing Emotions on a Roller-Coaster. A play made up of Gibberish On and Off led into a funny New Musical based on the suggested title CLUTZ, that somehow moved to a nitroglycerine  factory.  In a Paper Chase, famous lines from movies led to great fun  including a puppel  show and an inteview involving palmetto bugs. FST’s Christine Alexander, Tim Beasley, Catey Brannan, Chris Friday, Patrick jackson, Darryl Knapp, Adam Ratner, Jake Mills, and Steve Turrisi started the festival very well indeed. Jim Prosser on piano began the first of many contributions to the improv teams.
Improv Boston
               A long tale grew from a suggestion of the last thing an audience member bought for $5, and that was Sunglasses. There followed mother-daughter rivalry (Christine Cuddy and Deana C. Tolliver), cab driver directions, hair dressing, a scene in a movie theater, trip to Hollywood and a 15-year later casting. To help in this, a young boy Ollie, proved an invaluable extempore player from the audience.  A finger play and a strip act were penultimate to expressions of what everyone wanted to be in the future.  Again Ollie came onstage to triumpth, helped by Mike Descoteaux, Will Luera, and especially Robert Woo.
Nice work by all.
Hawk and Wayne – St. Petersburg
               Gavin Hawk and Ricky Wayne presented the premiere of  a show called IT’S A LIVING. There was a lot of disconnected talk between the two followed by a simulated stopping of a speeder, something involving a pregnant wife, and a yogurt bar.  The conversation was mostly inane.  A 40-min. dud.
Jester Theatre Company – Orlando
               A company able to play regular comedies, Jester created a vaudeville with many acts, by the players in turn acting out  various people and situations suggested by a woman at a desk handing out assignments.  That meant scenes with weirdos learning Swahili, spelunking, avoiding being caught, constantly yawning, preparing for a root canal, trying to understand Japanese, juggling, playing beach  volleyball, going to a Rock concert, flicking hair as Cher would, running like a toddler.  Lots for Jay Hopkins, Gemma Fearn, Brett Waldo, and Diana Hopkins to do—and done well.
Available  Cupholders – Austin, TX
               Three men and a girl (Michael Joplin, Ace Manning, Bill Stern, and Kaci Beeler) combine audience suggestions, found props, and their own ingenuity to create a comedy-drama.  In this case, the final prop that led to the big play was Cleopatra’s mummified leg. To find it, a trip to Egypt was in order and the Valley of the Kings and then  Queens relied on an idea given from an  English drama school. Not to be forgotten, an Italian opera singer got into the act, which was just as probably and also entertaining as so many known operas!
Mad Cowford – Jacksonville
               A lot of to-do about TACOS. Some of the take-offs on fancy restaurants was well done but much of the very uneven show didn’t seem much like improv.  Scenes about a Highsway Patrol and regarding soap operas seemed to have parts of  often used schtick.  It seemed hard to use all eight players, though Bobby Parker  and John Kalinowski made some interesting additions to slightly stilted scenes. The players were enthusiastic, though: Jamie Armstrong, Nick Davis, Matt Flagler (extrovert), Shavone Steele, Rachel Stromberg, Bill Welch.
Dad’s Garage – Atlanta
               Chris Blair, Kevin Gillese, Travis Sharp, and Dan Triandiflou do improv par excellence – very accomplished with dialogue that could be in a literary comedy at times. They did a silly interview in which the gimmick was that two respondents answered as one and the coordination was a thing of pure joy.  A grocery store scene came from an audience I-phone.  A section called Creative Features showed movies you never have to see, but the MAN’S BEST FRIEND reproduced was good enough to want to see. Always grand to see this clever group!
SAK Comedy Lab – Orlando
               Funny guys seemed to come in fours (David Charles, Chris Dinger, Jay Hopkins, Brett Waldon) to do a series of traditional scenes.  Based on Sci-Fi Movies, all became androids. There were much ado about something and 2 gentlemen with a Corona challenging Omlet: Maybe it’s the eggs that smell so bad in Denmark.  That sort of silly stuff.  A MAKE-UP MUSICAL had actual cosmetic make-up (but strangely concocted) lead to the inciting incident and a final serenade made good fun by all and for listeners. This group has launched careers of well known TV stars and the current players don’t suffer by comparison.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company – Chicago

               Ah, the piece de resistance!  Proceeding from the suggestion of a character and an action, GABRIEL’S ADVENTURES was an entire Elizabethan-style play. In line with the company’s practice,  the show was all-male, without technical aggrandisement,  completely original, unrehearsed, unwritten and never to be duplicated.  Gabriel the love-laden hero (like Romeo and Orlando) is separated from heroine Rosalind by the Duke and also the adverse opinion of the match by Gabriel’s best friend Lucifer.  Along the way to a bittersweet end, Gabriel is forced into an army against Spaniards threatening Verona, where a strange secret body of water has strange things in it. There’s a jealous woman, a Petruchio who comes to get Rosalind away for himself (but is stopped by Gabriel in a Punch and Judy type of altercation), and Beowulf’s mother Grendel—all woven into the plot, swiftly and Swiss-ly (the last via hidden identity). Though without a Hamlet, the play was, in the end, not without Ghosts. Conceived and directed by Blaine Swen, the company features him, Brendan Dowling, Tim Sniffen, and Matt Young and is on a par with Second City and the Neo-Futurists at their best – who are the best in the improv world.

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