Wow. Some amazing long form improv on the second night of the Ventura Area Theatresports (VATS) Laughingstock 3: Rumble in the Comedy Jungle. I've got some pictures, so let's get right to it. First, there was a workshop put on in the afternoon that I missed, but a couple of players from Santa Barbara attended. It was taught by Dan O'Conner from the LA Theatresports (LATS) group, and both Andy and Patrick reported that it was terrific.
The first show of the evening started at 5:00 and I missed that, also. It was a performance by Straight Up, a youth improv group from Ventura County.
I did get there in time for the 6:00 show, which was a Free-For-All consisting of VATS players, some performers from Chimps (the Chadwick Improvisers from Palos Verdes CA), the Rapid Fire Theatre (from Edmonton Canada), and maybe some LA folks. It was a pretty big group (13 players) so I don't quite remember them all. I didn't start taking pictures until it was almost done, so I don't have a good group shot. I do like this shot, which is one of the players from VATS and one of the Edmonton guys (Okay, tonight I'm getting a program and recording everyone's name).
Next came the first long form of the evening, titled a Quirky English Comedy. One of the LATS groups put it on, and I enjoyed it. I know it got mixed reviews because it wasn't laugh-a-minute funny. But, it was touching at times, and I enjoyed the characters. I especially liked a couple of scenes where one player had to portray two different characters in the scene at the same time. Everyone supported the technique and I think it played well.
Next was a brilliant Operetta put on by VATS along with Tristan from San Diego (as the itinerant podiatrist). This was another long form, where all the dialog was sung in that very distinctive operetta style (think Gilbert and Sullivan). This was funny all the way through and the singing was just so darn impressive!
Next up was the most impressive show of the evening and was performed by LATS. I've got several pictures from that one piece, and so I'll spend a bit more time rambling on about it.
They started with an extended warm-up that by itself could have been their entire show, and still have been one of the best of the night. It was called My Movie, and consisted of a series of movie titles and pitches made up on the spot. Any pitch that sounded interesting then had a scene performed. It was a high energy piece that they performed for about 20 minutes. Wonderful.
Then came their long form performance piece, which was a Tennessee Williams play. I believe their starters from the audience were puberty and wedding. The performance was amazing! A full range of characters, most were important to the plot and really compelling. The main plot was straight forward, but the secondary plots were very well constructed, added nicely to the texture of the characters, and each was beautifully tied up by the end.
And this was clearly a Tennessee Williams play. There was the young, naive summer gardener raising money for his coming marriage and who somehow never wore a shirt while in the garden; the man of the house (a dentist) who always had a drink in his hand and had a couple of hidden secrets; his wife (named Frustration) who had bouts of 'sickness' when reminded of her dead daughter (who was named Opportunity, and yes, she did knock at one critical plot point) and who lusted after the young worker; the younger (not dead) daughter (Honesty) who also lusted after the young worker but was convinced by her mother that she wasn't pretty (and who never seemed to be wearing pants); the sheriff looking into the dark secrets of the dentist and his 'tutoring'; 'Big Daddy' who was the patriarch of the family; and the local politician who wanted the wife as his own. There was also a soda jerk who was less involved, but did bring in a few key plot elements.
I can't speak highly enough about this piece. In my mind, it's what long form strives to be. Interesting, funny, rich, touching, and memorable. This was a gem in what still would have been a great night. An extra treat.
And of course, it didn't end there. Next was an Improv Jam, and it was pretty fun. Players from VATS, Edmonton, LATS, and San Diego put on a series of short form pieces that had some really fine moments. This picture came from a scene where two girlfriends were in a bathroom comforting a young woman at their prom after her date had said a few inappropriate things. A great scene.
Finally, the last show of the evening was Jimmy Mooks, a trio of players from VATS that put on a short form show where there are no holds barred. At this point I was pretty tired, so after only seeing a few games, I left for the night.
Okay, that's more than enough for now. One more night tonight, which I recommend you get out to see. A few of us from Santa Barbara will join in the Free-For-All at 6:00. Get out there!