Vancouver International Improv Festival
Samurai Davis Jr and Dim Sum’s Super Mega Happy Fun Time Improv Show, an act coming all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, kicked off a great Wednesday night at the Roundhouse for the Vancouver International Improv Festival... By Jason Lam and Nataly Richardson
Featuring a huge team of other actors from the festival, Chris Blair and Amber Nash hosted a game show in the form of one of those ever-so-popular Japanese game shows, where a series of spectacularly random events summed with a general objective equals for a “Super Mega Happy Fun Time”! Chris Blair showed especially deep commitment to his character, speaking his interpretation of the Japanese language, and even holding his characteristic face, complete with slit eyes and child-like fascination (staples for a Japanese game show host) in the background when not directly involved. Aside from the scenes acted out by the two competing duos, the highlights of the show were the parts in between! The improvised scenes each round were rated by the audience, using an abacus as an applause-o-meter (because the Japanese can) and the losing team would then be sentenced to “X-ohhhh!” as the audience would yell out. Punishments included, but were not limited to, Wasabi/Tabasco shots of Fireball whisky, Peanut Butter Panda!!!, and the grand finale, getting Mentos and Diet-Coked in a kiddy pool. Perhaps equally as funny as the punishments were the random events that probably caught the majority of the audience off guard. These events included, but were not limited to, scantily clad men throwing tea bags at the audience and a random raffle in which the prize was getting five 85% naked reindeer men rub up on the ticket holder. While the show exhibits maximum effectiveness on those familiar with the genre, the folks from Atlanta are sure to make anyone laugh.
PROJECTproject, an improv group from Toronto, lit up the second show of Wednesday night at the VIIF. Consisting of a red, white, and black color coordinated powerhouse team, PROJECTproject performed a number of interrelated scenes prompted from the single audience input of “a barber shop”. Taking on different styles, personifying different objects, and tackling some tough, sometimes awkward, interpersonal relationships, the troupe took the audience on a hilarious journey through the lives of people passing through the shop. Hilarious tangents included a seamless scene involving beekeepers, Bob Banks and Sean Tabares, and a beekeepers wife, Sarah Hillier, who is sent to all corners of the earth as a stall for her real gift and another scene of, what I interpreted as, a boy, Alex Tindal, who wanted to “go” with a hairdresser’s daughter, Kayla Lorette, who didn’t want to touch his hair due to a certain erectile response to follicular stimulation. The act also included two separate and hilarious occasions in which Banks was seen straddling Tindal. A special kudos to the ladies of the group who added a huge dynamic and familiarity through their scenes which were reminiscent of retro sitcoms of the 50’s. The chemistry between all the members was nothing short of splendiferous and contributed to a great show that captivated the audience from start to finish.
Closing Wednesday night at the Roundhouse, was the uproaring Edmonton improv duo, Scratch, consisting of the effervescent Kevin Gillese and the highly animated/expressive Arlen Konopaki. This must see show has a finesse about it that seemed to place it in a completely different category than any other improv I’ve seen! The two exhibit a close connection and comfortableness with each other that can only be achieved through either integral studies of each others’ character and mannerisms, or through years of being joined at the hip (the kind of finish-eachothers-sentences familiarity), which I suppose can be one and the same. Their act consisted of scenes prompted by three audience inputs, a place that can fit on the stage, an object, and a movie. These three completely different scenes, hilarious in their own methods, were brought together for an passionate climax of raw human emotions and imaginary spectacles. Just as impressive as their talent to switch characters, transition between scenes, and trade characters (not to be mistaken with switching characters), was their almost effortless ability to form inspiring two man structures, climbing all over each other as if gravity did not exist, during their “yoga scene”. The visions these two young actors are capable of burning into your eyes (in a good way) can be described similarly to the latest in automotive excellence; powerful yet elegant. The impersonations, the fluidity, and the on-a-tee improvisation of Scratch is a must see for yourself, and fortunately, they hit the stage one more time this Friday evening at 8pm!
The Vancouver International Improv Festival. Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown, October 7-11, 2008.