The art of improvisation in theater, while very old, really came to the fore in America with the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” The form goes back in the BCE period, and has roots in commedia dell’arte, and a nod to The Second City in Chicago. It has been widely seen in recent years, primarily as comedic acting games, and most groups play it before audiences strictly for laughs. Despite the apparent free form, there are sets of rules, as few as five and as many as 10, that guide the performances.
J Chachula leads his group, The Flying Machine Theatre Company, in a slightly different direction, stressing the humanity of real human interaction; and if humor is generated, it comes from the reality they create. Chachula says “We emphasize the fundamentals of improvisation rather than being fast, funny, or absurd. We won’t ask you to master a bunch of improv games. Or compete against your classmates” when appealing for new members to the Open Mind Improvisation company which he runs also. It shows distinctly in the performance, Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences, playing through May 20th at Research Triangle High School in Research Triangle Park.
The ensemble consists of six men and women, although on Saturday night two were excused to attend their high school prom. The remaining four adults — Elysha Nichols, Thaddeus Edwards, Page Purgar, and Brian Yandle — did compelling work. Dancing the night away elsewhere were Helen Bowen and Duncan McGregor, both of Research Triangle High School.
The standard improv performance format is used in which the audience is polled for subject matter, and then the performers immediately make a story happen. The difference between these scenes and the ones you may be familiar with if you’ve seen improv was noticeable at first breath. That these folks were dealing with the matter at hand as real not farcical, gave rise to the real humor that often lies beneath the fractures in relationships. When farcical elements arise and tensions increase, we in the audience are struck by the amusing contrasts and paradoxes but cannot escape the drama of the problem.
Among the best of the skits were a woman coming out as straight, talking to her male friend about the decision; a school teacher attempting to make the parents of a sexually aggressive student understand that that was inappropriate; and the seriously critical mother-in-law and her husband having dinner with their son and his wife. Also exceptionally well treated were dealing with a dying parent’s last wish; Dad having “the” conversation with his 17-year-old daughter; breaking the news, after 37 years, that a son had been adopted; and a truly funny piece, with deep underlying meaning about a girl’s first bungee jump.
We cannot even imagine what clever and heart-touching events these four will accomplish with two well-trained high schoolers added to the mix, and so we are going to this show next week also. Perhaps, we’ll see you there?
The Flying Machine Theatre Company presents CURIOUS ACCIDENTS & UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES at 8 p.m. May 18-20 Research Triangle High School, 3106 E. NC54, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709.
TICKETS: $10 ($5 students).
BOX OFFICE: 919-376-0054 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2934832.
SHOW: http://www.theflyingmachine.net/pov/curious-accidents-unintentional-consequences-putting-the-theatre-back-into-improv and https://www.facebook.com/events/1870512949832397/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://vimeo.com/212653174.
PRESENTER: http://www.theflyingmachine.net/ and https://www.facebook.com/The-Flying-Machine-Theatre-Studio-178424912251779/.
VENUE: http://www.researchtrianglehighschool.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Research-Triangle-High-School-206137486135961/, and https://twitter.com/restrihigh.
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.