Instant Karma | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Instant Karma, ImprovOlympic. Created to showcase Improv-Olympic's many ensemble members--there are more than 150, divided into 19 teams--Instant Karma jumbles people from different groups together in a long-form improv directed by Jason R. Chin. Jumping off from an audience suggestion, one cast member delivers a short monologue. The other performers then weave the monologue's themes into a series of improvised sketches and additional monologues. Here's the twist: the ensemble can ask the monologuists pointed, often embarrassing questions, which on opening night led not only to comic highlights but also to a lot of blushing: when Jeff Griggs admitted that he'd had a nasty fight with his ImprovOlympic boss after his show was canceled the week before, the ensemble good-naturedly threaded that theme throughout the evening.

The group will change from week to week, which is both the show's strength and its weakness: the performers won't become complacent, but on opening night cast members tended to be rivalrous instead of collaborative. Several times two skits were competing with each other onstage. Still, it's fun to watch ImprovOlympic's brand of physical improv based on strong characterization, and the more monologues this group had to work with the better it became--by the end of the hour the cast was on fire.

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