RAZOR SPIRITS II, Pavlovisation, at Cafe Voltaire. Now that comedy troupes across Chicago have explored virtually every frigging permutation of improv revues imaginable, a new trend is developing. Call it Instant Drama. Squads of fresh-faced twentysomething performers share wisecracks and riffs in semiscripted topical scenes, but instead of going for laughs they go for tears and chills. It's a natural progression--it overcomes the limits of the improv form and eliminates the difficult task of coming up with jokes week in and week out.
In Razor Spirits II Pavlovisation blends Second City revue patter with something that borders on drama therapy. The cleverest thing they do is to blur the distinction between audience and performer, as two exceedingly self-indulgent guys take turns interviewing spectators, a couple of whom turn out to be cast members whose interviews melt into scenes.
There's nothing wrong per se with doing sketches on heavy topics such as incest fantasies or the aftermath of rape, but the scenes are so sluggishly paced and repetitive that they border on exploitation. A scene in which a pair of thugs alternately beat up and sexually molest an office clerk seemed particularly pointless. One featuring the ghost of a rapist haunting his victim was belabored and cruel.
The evening I attended, the best part was when one of the cast members took questions from the audience and one wag asked, "Why do you suppose that couple walked out on the show?"
"I don't know," the fellow replied. "I hope they come back."