Invisible Rails | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Invisible Rails


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INVISIBLE RAILS, at the Folio Theatre Company. About a year ago the group Ed began exploring fully improvised serious drama. I caught the show twice, and the first time it was dreadful, the second glorious. Now another group has come along: Invisible Rails is an amalgam of noteworthy improvisers (among them Ian Roberts, Brian Stack, Lawrence Peters, and Matt Besser) from ImprovOlympic, Ed, and Second City's Lois Kaz trying to do what a friend jokingly calls improvisational tragedy. And once again the ideas behind the show are much more interesting than the results.

Of the three improvisations, the most moving was silent. In "The Ritual," the actors focus on creating stage pictures while enacting an everyday ritual--in this case, taking a bath. Without doing anything even vaguely reminiscent of dance, these performers managed to create a scene as visually and emotionally effective as a well-choreographed bit of dance-theater.

The other two improv forms are much more conventional, involving short character-driven scenes and lots of talk about death and the past (standbys in "serious" improvisation). Both had their moments. The first piece in particular played with a fascinating concept: having several improvisers play a single character, "Stuart," at various stages in his life. But both pieces ran too long. In the first, you could feel the moment the story ended, yet the performers continued for another five minutes.

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