Cuffs | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Cuffs, ImprovOlympic. These days the most interesting improv experiments fuse invented and flexibly scripted elements; in typical fashion, the ImprovOlympic brain trust has come up with a pretty crafty mixture. The title suggests a send-up of Cops, but this is actually a parody of police procedurals like Law & Order--and a good thing too: the former is as immune to satire as Married With Children while the latter is rife with opportunities for offhand scorn. Here a star-studded ensemble investigates freshly invented crimes, taking roles that remain fixed from week to week.

The parts have been carefully apportioned. There are old hands and young bloods among the players, but everyone digs deep, expertly locating the fucked-up details that sell improv's psychotic forgery of characterization. Their vamping dovetails nicely with the bluster endemic to the genre; asshole DAs, crusty precinct captains, and the like make terrific targets, and there's a sparkling cast of incidental losers on hand as well.

The night I attended, Mary McCain's tough-talking cop stole the show, though Rush Howell, Joe Canale, Christina Gausas, and Dan Antonucci were very funny too. The only hitch: the plot, improv's weakest suit and a whodunit's most crucial component. Unsurprisingly, things didn't tie up so neatly in the second act; but as these performers were entertaining even when going nowhere, it really didn't matter.

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