Addison — Improv demands a certain buy-in. There cannot be any ambivalence. Players must be willing to follow a partner down the proverbial rabbit hole, or the scene falls flat and the audience follows.
All the players at the eighth annual Big Sexy Weekend of Improv, presented by the Alternative Comedy Theater at the Addison Stone Cottage went all in with big performances both Friday and Saturday night.
Trajectory Adjacent is a two-woman troupe that is back together after a few years apart. Rosie Blair moved back from Los Angeles recently and reunited with Liz Robinson, a troupe mate from The Band Wreckers.
They took a few minutes to acclimate themselves Friday night, but quickly hit their stride, tearing through a handful of scenes involving Joe and Joanne Sr. and Joanne Jr. and a stolen éclair recipe and a 5’10” sous chef that got better as it progressed. Ultimately, Rosie and Liz were seamlessly switching between each other’s characters, drawing bigger laughs each time.
The Alternative Comedy Theater’s own The Victims have been playing together for a decade now, and their cohesion and camaraderie made for plenty of laughs at their show Friday.
The five men spun together an extended courtroom scene that veered wildly off-track into a dissection of nuances regarding Gandalf’s honorifics by the defendant who was lying on the floor a la Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug that prompted one lawyer to object on grounds “that we’ve wildly gone off-track.”
The members of Austin-based Golden play without uttering a word. It’s not a silent show, as there is a soundtrack of early jazz and ‘50s-era advertising jingles playing softly. And there is plenty of giggling, snickering and groaning, not to mention more than a few guttural sounds, which were apropos considering one scene had our “taste-testing” protagonist being operated on sans anesthesia after swallowing a number of swords and other undesirables.
The seven players were often all in the scene together, producing a palatable energy that seemed to stem from the unabashed glee they exuded doing make’em-ups with friends. They committed to whatever they were doing—or being asked or coerced to do—and it worked each time.
Michael Jastroch, co-founder of Austin’s ColdTowne Theater, and Cortnie Jones perform as Jonestroch. Saturday night they quickly established characters of depth with emotion that allowed them to explore various themes. One scene with a woman arriving at Ellis Island with her 12 to 13 children was especially hilarious. And callbacks to saying no to drugs … unless it sounds like fun in a safe way, proved funnier and funnier with each reference.
Two shows chock full of improvisers closed each night’s slate. On Friday, QuizProv created one of the funniest lines of the weekend, as James Murray of Norman, Okla.’s, Red Dirt Improv was tasked with answering simple questions with wrong answers.
What word is misspelled on the Liberty Bell?
It was right on time and scored big laughs.
QuizProv pits three teams of two improvisers against each other in an assortment of games and improv scenes, including “Who said it: Gary Busey or Stephen Hawking?” and “So You Think You Can, Danny?” The latter had emcee Danny Gallagher doing an interpretive dance to an almost two-decade-old boy band ditty while one of each team’s players wore headphones pumped with white noise trying to guess the song via Gallagher’s gesticulations.
Somehow, Alyssa Armes figured out it was “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys and her team was awarded 500 points or whatever, catapulting the pair to victory. How she unlocked that mystery is anyone’s guess, but Gallagher was committed to the bit and it played out perfectly.
The Humor Games closed the festival with a dozen improvisers playing silly games as the audience awarded them points. It stalled at times, but concluded with a lip-sync showdown that proved these comedians are “Never Gonna Give You Up.”