Dinner For Six | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Dinner For Six

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Dinner For Six, at ImprovOlympic. Very rarely do actors submit to constraints like those governing this "improvised romantic comedy": using fortune-cookie parables as suggestions, the four-woman, four-man team split into couples introduced at a dinner party, then developed through individual scenes. The rules not only force the players to flesh out their characters for an hour, they also eliminate the supporting roles normally crucial to moving along improvised plots as well as scoring laughs. It's risky business, potentially dull even if competent, but the cast of Dinner for Six manages it handily, giving plausible, nuanced, engrossing performances.

Much of the show's appeal lies in its spectacular difficulty, the actors deprived of everything but their discipline. But director Jason R. Chin also aims for one of the form's Holy Grails: "improvised theater," in the words of his program note, not "just another improv show." All four couples convey a quiet, convincing rapport and intimacy from the moment they appear onstage, and there are no false moves in this graceful, balanced ensemble effort. The characters' evolution, though sometimes surprising, is never inconsistent, as the players transform the limitations of hasty initial decisions into springboards for discovery. When I attended, Chris Gelbach, Jeffrey Griggs, Stacy L. Mayer, and Lauren Glass were particularly good, but a happy side effect of the rules is that it's impossible for anyone to dominate.

--Brian Nemtusak

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