JUSTICE IS SERVED, Grounded Theatre, at the Playground. One of the major problems--maybe the major problem--with improv today is that improvisers know way too much about what's on TV and almost nothing about anything else. Justice Is Served is an improv-based show parodying a debased TV genre: the bogus court session, in which a real judge conducts mock trials involving low-stakes small-claims cases. The folks at the Grounded Theatre do a good job re-creating the look and feel of shows such as The People's Court, Judge Judy, etc. And the fully improvised characters do seem remarkably like the small-minded riffraff who appear on these shows, suing landlords, tenants, and ex-lovers for remarkably small sums of money.
But the folks who make up this ensemble are going to have to work a lot harder--and learn a lot more about the world outside the box populi--if they hope to make 90 minutes of stage time entertaining. Everyone in the ensemble goes for the quick, TV-style visual gag--at one point Nicole Soltis pops out wearing a leopard-print cat suit and tells the judge her name is Kitty. But having made their silly joke, they're at a loss as to what to do next. No one seems to know how to build a stageworthy character or how to use the admittedly restrictive format of a trial to tell an interesting story. Most frustrating of all, the actor who plays the fictional judge, John Anthony Schultz, appears to know so little about real-life court procedure that he lets opportunities to satirize the judicial system slip through his fingers.