Mixtape takes improv into the drama zone | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Mixtape takes improv into the drama zone

Theatre Momentum's newest experiment blends music with an improvised one-act play.

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Theatre Momentum, which under the leadership of Tony Rielage lays claim to being the only company in town dedicated to dramatic improv, brings interstitial music into the mix in its latest offering. The cast and the story shuffle with each performance, but the constant is singer-guitarist Tony Nuccio, whose live song selections provide the transitions between the scenes in the improvised one-act play.

On the night I attended, the bookends for the nearly hour-long show involved two friends (played by Micky Govern and Joe Sergio), caught in conversation right after the memorial service for another friend. The "mixtape" purportedly represents the songs played at the service, but mercifully nothing was too obviously on the nose. Rather, the performers (directed by Peter Athans) demonstrated an admirable knack for subtlety in crafting a story of a group of former college friends wrestling with the inevitable pangs of growing apart. Though the age disparity in the cast undercut the believability of the premise at times, the ensemble's strong listening skills paid off as they built the narrative arc from a series of two-person scenes teasing out bits and pieces of the backstory to a party where all the earlier dramatic spadework paid off.

We may not understand exactly where songs like "Dock of the Bay" and "Eight Days a Week" fit in the lives of these characters, but Mixtape allows room for humor and mystery in its instant drama, with a minimum of self-indulgence.  v

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