TheatreSports, at Broad Shoulders Theatre, and ComedySportz, at the TurnAround Theatre. It should come as no surprise to find two improv-comedy troupes tapping into Chicagoans' innate love of competition: both TheatreSports and ComedySportz pit two teams of improvisers (sides are chosen nightly) against each other. The results are as unpredictable as any ball game, and less bloodthirsty. (ComedySportz even has what it calls a "brown-bag foul," designed to discourage gratuitous vulgarity.)
TheatreSports, playing to the early-evening crowd, is more likely to appeal to purists: two four-member teams clad in identical black suits vie over five rounds for high marks from judges selected from the audience. Highlights included a dazzling Kerouac parody by Gonzo Schexnayder and a delightfully logical throwaway gag by Steve Longmuir as a bell-ringing monk. On the other hand, the parochialism that infests this brand of humor is manifested in one cheap racial joke and in the cast's seeming inability to imagine any geography outside the midwest.
The late-night audiences at ComedySportz, in the heart of the Clark-Belmont party district, make for a show that's faster, louder, and more raucous. A plethora of props assist the cast, and the emcee explains the rules so swiftly as to render them unintelligible to the uninitiated. But though the relentlessly manic pace can be wearying--I saw the two shows as a doubleheader--the company's originality and agility more than redeem the occasional dull spots.
--Mary Shen Barnidge