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Improvisation has always been an important facet at Second City, but it was usually treated as a means to an end: scripted sketch comedy shows. The troupe Lois Kaz, formed in 1994, changed all that--named after a longtime Second City employee (and the ex-wife of Second City music director Fred Kaz), it was begun for one reason only, to improvise one-act shows. Its members succeeded admirably. It would have been hard for them to miss: the group included some of the best young improvisers in town, many of whom had already spread their wings in legendary groups like Ed and Jazz Freddy. Lois Kaz was superior to its precursors, however. The ensemble was amazingly tight. You didn't see egos flare; no one tried to hog the spotlight. Each person just did what he or she had to do to make a scene work. I'll never forget the sight of Kevin Dorff playing a wave (and doing it well!) when everyone else was a crew member on a Roman galley. Dorff's wave signified everything that was good about Lois Kaz: it was selfless and visually interesting and always provided just the right detail. Sadly, in America no troupe this brilliant stays together long. In less than a year, many Lois Kaz members were busy scurrying up the Second City ladder, from touring company to main stage to TV. But their short time together introduced a sea change at Second City, which soon afterward ushered in an era of sharper, hipper, more subversive shows such as Pinata Full of Bees and Paradigm Lost. This weekend's one-night Lois Kaz reunion will offer a rare chance to see the improv dream team in action again. Second City main stage, 1616 N. Wells, 312-337-3992. Friday, December 17, 10 PM. $5. --Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert E. Potter III.

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