Dinner for Six, Argos Agency, at ImprovOlympic. The fourth incarnation of director Jason R. Chin's excellent long-form show has all the basic strengths of past mountings. It begins with a clever take on the full-cast opening, framing the usual brainstorming session as dinner-party conversation, then spirals into two- and three-person scenes that culminate in another big dinner scene. The performers play fixed roles, a structure that engenders deeper-than-average character development. And the cast appears equal to the patient, thoughtful work the form demands. But sometimes the capricious magic of a great improvised performance won't be summoned; the evening I attended, things jelled but never ignited.
Granted, the assigning of identities in the opening was a little clumsier and more transparent than might have been optimal in the context of bread-baking chitchat--old friends don't generally need to remind one another of their professions. And a first-stringer was missing, which might have disrupted the ensemble's chemistry. Generally speaking, though, there was nothing wrong with anyone's choices or acting, which made the less-than-thrilling plot and conclusion seem a simple case of opening-night jitters. Or perhaps just the product of the inevitable off night.