THE CAMPUS BEAT, Mytho-Logic Studios and Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Telemachus Productions, at Improv-Olympic. When he heard I was reviewing two more shows from Chicago's glutted improv scene, my German friend suggested that improv, like prostitution in some European countries, be licensed by the state and limited to certain red-light districts--like Old Town or Wrigleyville. Improvisors would be tested to insure that their skills met acceptable standards. Authoritarian? Difficult to legislate? Perhaps, but at least it would save the public from these two shows.
If nothing else, Mytho-Logic's Campus Beat has an innovative gimmick and a couple of engaging performers (Molly Cavanaugh as a neurotic college freshman and Robert Dassie as a techno-nerd working for a college Web zine). A traditionally structured, long-form improv sitcom, its scenes are based on suggestions posted to the company's Web page, where die-hard enthusiasts can follow the story. Such an approach might attract a cult following if half the Web zine's staffers didn't look like 30-somethings and if so many scenes weren't performed at Pinter pace. Beginning with a long, meandering conversation between the principal characters, the show veers off into interlocking scenes, many of which have the half-committed, lethargic quality of a long-running TV show's final season.
Even less effective is Keith Privett and Telemachus's Looking for Love, an "interactive romantic comedy" that chronicles the loopy exploits of white-bread characters seeking the perfect match. The cast enlists unsuspecting audience members in their shopworn boy-wants-to-meet-girl, girl-wants-to-meet-boy, boy-makes-audience-want-to-go-out-and-get-hammered scenes. Replete with half-baked characterizations, uninspired quips, and a decided lack of focus, Privett's show struggles to fill out its 60-minute length. ImprovOlympic founder Charna Halpern remarked at the end of the show, "Well, at least you see what they're trying to do."
True enough. But in my friend's authoritarian utopia, their license would still be revoked.