The Living Room and Show | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Living Room and Show

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The Living Room and Show, ImprovOlympic. The differences between ImprovOlympic partners Charna Halpern and Del Close are nowhere more apparent than in these two shows. Where Halpern is all warmth, smiles, and clear-headed competence, dispensing free drinks and pointed maternal wisdom, Close is the quintessential portrait of the artist as an old grouch, with a twisted, radical genius that's made him the Ted Kaczynski of modern comedy.

The Living Room, directed by Halpern and starring the ImprovOlympic team Valhalla, is a pleasant, leisurely, skillful affair. In the titular locale, eight improvisers settle back and shoot the shit. Whatever they decide to talk about becomes the basis for a series of interlocking scenes, which vary in quality from dizzyingly witty to aimless and gross but generally exhibit the actors' mastery of their technique. The chats that follow each scene, however, are so relaxed and amiable that they effectively destroy the momentum of whatever came before: this somewhat seasick show is far too comfortable with itself.

Close's Show, performed by the Lindbergh Babies, contains fewer laughs but infuses its subjects with such insane inspiration that the evening is a consistent, hypnotic delight, never slowing until the final blackout. Beginning with purportedly autobiographical monologues and moving into an increasingly complex pattern of scenes based on a song title provided by the audience, the Lindbergh Babies on the night I attended puzzled and at times alienated the audience with their leaps into the realms of meteorology, astronomy, and chemistry. These exceedingly intelligent, gifted performers made The Living Room seem predictable and sophomoric by comparison; such is the difference between technical proficiency and mad genius. --Adam Langer

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