Angry White Guy Reads The Paper, WNEP Theater. Improv can be bent into innumerable forms, but the basic method is almost always the same. Troupe members gather information via free association, audience suggestion, found text, or similar outside source--raw material that might be likened to, say, iron ore. Then the rest of the troupe processes the stuff and sells it to the audience as a refined product like, say, a car. Here WNEP honcho Don Hall--playing the blunt-spoken, MGD-swilling, open-bathrobed Chicago guy of the title--mines the Sun-Times for shtick, and the cast plays off his opinionated newsreading. The ensemble is adept and supplies some choice riffs, but often its recombinations don't go far enough--and we end up settling for auto parts.
The fast pace and overall abbreviation of this midnight show are obvious difficulties. Long-form shows can afford false starts, detours, and dead ends as they build toward recapitulations of pattern and theme, but the quick cuts between White Guy and the cast don't allow for fumbling. The other problem, predictably, is the news: it's still pretty monolithic, making for slim to ginger pickings. Still, the pieces of this show are in place; what's required is more assembly. The minimal set and props look great, the presentation is lively and crisp, and the cast's talents mesh nicely. With time and heightened attention to the bigger picture, good things should start rolling off the line.