"Best Musical! A Completely Improvised Musical Comedy"
Improvised musicals have a long tradition in Chicago. "Baby Wants Candy," which has filled the late-night Friday slot at the Apollo for years (and counts "
This is less surprising when you realize that show creator Matthew Loren Cohen (who provides accompaniment on piano) is also the music director for "Baby Wants Candy."
There's a bit more structure to the setup here in director
The show takes place on Porchlight's wonderfully worn-in looking set for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill." ("I'm distracted because this set looks exactly like the bar where my dad drank himself to death," a very funny Kevin Sciretta muttered as an aside at one point.)
The ensemble doesn't have the caliber of voices you normally get at Porchlight; these are improv folks first and foremost, but they know their stuff. Kate Cohen brings a buttoned-up energy to the group, which is offset by the more effusively emotive choice of a performer such as Rebecca Hanson. The guys are just as strong, including the very droll Tim Ryder and John Hartman, the latter of whom ups the quality of every scene in which he appears. Hartman is a performer who digs in deep and finds the weird tics of his characters, and the show feels special because of his contributions.
As emcee, Colette Hawley holds everything together while bringing a perfectly loose and anarchic spirit. "People, this is very exciting," she deadpans before looking over at the cast, all dressed in black, and observing: "This doesn't look like we're going to make a musical. This looks more like a town hall about gun control."
Through March 6 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are $15 at 773-327-5252 or porchlightmusictheatre.org.
"185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar"
Improv is a lot like Zen — being in the moment or something to that effect — according to Amanda Rountree in her one-woman autobiographical show, which hangs its hat on what comes across as a shaky theme, at best.
There's something a bit tentative and wan as she walks us through her formative years. Discovering improv. Deciding she wants to be an actor. Realizing she won't be getting cast on
Any personal story told with enough specificity can be interesting, no matter how navel-gazing, but Rountree hasn't written that kind of show (nor has director Jen Ellison helped with sloggy pacing). What does work is Rountree playing a younger version of herself and flashing back to her most humiliating moments. Her description of barprov — improv performed in bars — is spot on and very funny, as is her anecdote about working as a model at
Through March 28 at Studio Be, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave. Tickets are $12-$15 at 773-248-5900 or studio-be.org.