Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

The Screw Puppies

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Like garage bands, improv troupes have a short life expectancy. Often thrown together, they perform for a while, then fall apart. So even though there are a lot of improv troupes in Chicago, there aren't many that perform with the intensity or level of trust of the Screw Puppies, made up of members of the unofficial Annoyance ensemble. Some of them have been playing together for a dozen years or more--these performers know one another so well it seems they can read each other's minds. More important, they feel comfortable and free enough to do anything onstage--or anywhere in the Annoyance space for that matter. And because this is the Annoyance--and the show begins after midnight--I do mean anything. The night I caught the show Ed Furman was in a particularly wild mood, seemingly fixated on injecting sex into every scene. He even capped one by playing a rapacious stone crab, claws snapping, a twisted leer for a smile. Nothing Furman initiated, however silly or perverse, was rejected. Everything he said or did was treated with respect by his fellow improvisers. And the show's level of intelligence never drooped, the way it does when less experienced improvisers panic during a dying scene and "go blue"--get raunchy. In true Annoyance style, no matter how explicit the players become or how many taboos they strive to break, they remain a tight, seasoned, professional ensemble. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 773-929-6200. Open run: late Saturdays, 12:30 AM; late Thursday, December 30, 12:30 AM; no show Saturday, December 25 or January 1. $5, or $3 if you've just seen Co-ed Prison Sluts (see listing in this section). --Jack Helbig

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