PICK-UPS AND HICCUPS, Boom Chicago, at Live Bait Theater. In the five years since its inception, Boom Chicago has jump-started the careers of many of Chicago's most gifted improvisers, who can now be seen onstage at Second City and ImprovOlympic, among other venues. The Amsterdam-based Boom Chicago is also one of the best-paying gigs around, and it enables performers to travel overseas and sharpen their skills in front of packed houses: Boom Chicago is an unqualified success in Amsterdam, where it has virtually no competition. But the playing field is much more level here, where theatergoers can choose from among half a dozen improv shows on any given night. Chicago audiences are as fickle as they are savvy--it's tough for a troupe to compete without a clever hook. And Pick-ups and Hiccups, the troupe's first stateside production, isn't particularly flashy. Billed as "an improvised love affair," this two-person show relies mainly on Boom Chicago's established formula: a half-and-half mix of scripted and improvised scenes.
The show's scripted portions are impressively well rehearsed and tight. But unfortunately there isn't much improvisation to be found in Pick-ups and Hiccups. Jill Benjamin and Seth Meyers are obviously adept at working an audience, but their improv sequences are so rigidly structured that they don't give the pair much room to maneuver. There's no question that Boom Chicago's bread-and-butter style of comedy is appealing, but it would be interesting to see what the troupe could accomplish with a more flexible approach.