Grunt, at ImprovOlympic. The performers in this late-night improv show demonstrate a finely honed sense of how to make comedy work. Directed by Second City alumnus Craig Cackowski, the seven cast members know when to repeat a joke to give it legs and how to fully explore an idea's humor (and usually when to cut a scene off). For instance, they took an offhand comment in one sketch that "babies don't fall from the sky" into another scene and touched on the subject hilariously in two more.
Dina Facklis, Jake Schneider, Dan Sipp, Ann O'Neill, Dave Gilley, Rebecca Allen, and Lauren Sharpe quickly build recognizable characters and ground their scenes in realistic scenarios and settings. On opening night we met a couple awkwardly bumping into each other after a painful breakup, a man searching for a job, an immature couple arguing over the woman's impending pregnancy, and a mother trying to occupy a kid in need of Ritalin. The actors pick an idea from one scene to suggest the next, and throughout the show improvisers not involved in the action interject some detail about the characters' clothes or environment. These little choices--a Stroh's shirt, no shirt, a side ponytail--are often worthy of a laugh on their own. Grunt isn't hilarious from start to finish, but it's a promising show that demonstrates the assurance, skills, and creativity needed to win laughs.