The Land of Karaoking Improvisers | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Land of Karaoking Improvisers

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LAND OF THE KARAOKING IMPROVISERS, Moctis, at the Playground. Usually, the more gimmicks improvisers use--masks, props, strange acting styles and conceits--the worse the show is. The exception was the Hyde Park-based troupe Sheila. For years they performed using the most annoying, cumbersome premise: moment by moment, they followed the dictates of a "giant wall of plot twists," a large poster on which were tacked various directions. Yet they still created funny, energetic, highly entertaining shows.

Now the core members of Sheila--Edmund O'Brien, Patrick Brennan, and Dana O'Brien--are back, performing under the name Moctis with Mike Brumm in a new show based on another gimmick: karaoke. The show begins with the audience requesting a song, which one of the performers sings with all the hammy bravado of a seasoned karaoke addict. The group performs a series of scenes based on that number, and then the audience suggests a new song. And so it goes for about an hour.

Other, less seasoned improvisers would probably have made a hash of this format, but Moctis was able to turn out surprisingly rich scenes: their ratio of funny to unfunny bits was remarkably high. Even more impressive were their occasional serious character-based improvisations, as when Edmund O'Brien and Dana O'Brien (who are husband and wife) played a brother and sister on a surrealistically long train ride.

--Jack Helbig

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