The Subject, Atlantis, at Improv-Olympic. The stakes have risen for fully improvised shows. Where it used to be enough to play a few improv games, now players have got to improvise for 20 or 30 minutes at a stretch to get even a smattering of applause. Atlantis raises the bar again in this show, which is meant to be not only a fully improvised 90-minute play (with intermission) but a dreamy, hallucinatory, serious work full of flashbacks and memories that later, if the performers are skilled and lucky, form a meaningful story.
One can easily imagine such a format decaying into an endless, annoying evening of disconnected scenes. But the night I caught the show it was moody, moving, and beautiful, exploring the psyche of a woman recovering from the sudden death of her husband. Atlantis--which includes such seasoned improvisers as Noah Gregoropoulos and T.J. Jagodowski--kept the piece remarkably free of the annoying tics that can ruin even less ambitious improvised pieces. Jagodowski in particular performed with the egoless freedom of someone who can make anything that happens onstage meaningful. Christina Gausas too in the difficult role of the evening's "subject"--she was onstage all 90 minutes--gracefully moved from scene to scene and memory to memory without a moment's hesitation or confusion.