COMEDYSPORTZ and BLIND DATE, at the TurnAround Theatre. The competitive ComedySportz is not a show for improv purists: the audiences are too noisy, the pace is too fast, and the players sacrifice much of what's loved about improv--cultural exploration, unintentional magic, the surprise of self-discovery--for the sake of keeping things moving. But for anyone who gets tired of improv that fizzles like a wet firecracker, the hyper world of ComedySportz, whistle-blowing referee and all, is a blessing.
The premise of the show is as blindingly vulgar as it was ten years ago, when it first opened. Two teams of improvisers compete against each other in a series of improv games. The referee (and emcee) keeps all games within strict time limits--you'll never stumble into a 30-minute freeze-tag session here. But for all its vulgarity, the show the night I saw it was also very funny and winning. None of the improv was particularly brilliant, but everyone supported one another, and even the least successful bits--such as an improvised movie-review show--were likable and entertaining.
Likewise, the ComedySportz ensemble's first foray into long-form improv, Blind Date, can't hold a candle to more serious long-form efforts of the past decade (by Ed, Jazz Freddy, Lois Kaz). Still, the premise is interesting enough: before the show, audience members are asked to write their own personal ads. Two of these--one by a man and one by a woman--are randomly chosen, read out loud, and used as the jumping-off point for a 45- to 50-minute improvised one-act.
The improvisation I saw managed to be both funny and romantic, thanks in large part to hilarious but heartfelt performances from Lori McClain, Brendan Hunt, and Juliet Curry as a put-upon ex-girlfriend. True, I was never swept away by the improvisations, the way I have been at ImprovOlympic's long-form The Armando Diaz Experience, Theatrical Movement & Hootenanny. But I was never bored either. And in the world of improv, that's saying a lot. --Jack Helbig