Murder...By Improv, ChicagoImprovAnarchy, at Frankie J's MethaDome Theatre. We've all seen improvised murder mysteries in which audiences vote on whodunit. ChicagoImprovAnarchy (CIA) takes the game several steps further, however. Under the guidance of our detective-host (Columbo on the night I attended, played by Tommy Taylor), we first submit suggestions on which the characters are based, then choose the one who will be murdered. The victim then selects the killer, informing fellow cast members of the decision--but not us or our sleuth, instead sealing up the culprit's name in an envelope entrusted to a spectator. Will we and/or the wily gumshoe read the clues correctly and discover the guilty party over the course of the next hour?
If we don't--and on occasion the innocent have taken the blame--it's no fault of these eight players, who've obviously worked together until they're comfortable, both intellectually and physically, with their concept and one another. The humor is no lower-brow than usual for the genre and often surprisingly logical. (Shunt Madanyan, upon being given the word "mother," assumes the persona of a Sicilian immigrant and proclaims defiantly, "All Italian men love their mothers!"). The puzzler that emerges is more than sufficient to keep us eagerly awaiting the outcome.