Buckle up! This is the 18th year Rapid Fire Theatre breaks out with Improvaganza, a 10-day improvisational riff on diverse role-playing games at the Citadel Theatre.
The greater Edmonton metropolitan region has a fertile artistic scene and Rapid Fire provides a dynamic improv training centre for a rare breed of standup comedians and actors.
The Wednesday opening night sampler on June 13 was a slick introduction to the 10-day improv festival where the value of an act is based on the roll of a dice.
Artistic director Matt Schuurman noted 24 acts signed up for the off-the-cuff sweepstakes that runs until Saturday, June 23.
However, at the sampler, only eight groups took their best shot at making up lines on the spot. Judging by crowd interaction, some of the groups already had a built-in audience.
Here’s a quick rundown of the sampler’s performing acts.
Queens, New York
The five-person improvised sitcom walked on stage wearing jeans, spandex and thick accents. Their shtick is blue-collar slice-of-life comedy. This evening they ventured into a friendly card game that evolved into a discovery of cheats. Unfortunately, the saucy sketch lost steam and plateaued.
Performing across North America, Twoson slipped back into high school mode with an uncool student and the principal accidentally meeting in the smoke pit for a puff. The dialogue was smart. The pickup lines were sharp and they led the audience through unexpected twists and turns.
Marv N’ Berry
The Marv N’ Berry comedy troupe thrives on going into the blue zone. Their sketch revolves around two doofuses applying for a weekend DJ job at the local radio station. He’s a full-throttle noise maker. She’s a raunchy spaced out sex bomb. And it’s a fight to the finish with solid timing and slapstick performances.
For this show, Schuurman handpicked about eight improv artists from across the world that had never worked together. Although unfamiliar with each other’s styles, they appeared to perform telepathically.
The artists warmed up with a several cut-to and cut-into scenes. But they quickly sucked everyone into a creepy horror scene of a grandfather encased in a wall for five years. One of the evening’s best.
What’s amazing about Joel and Marguerite is their spur-of-the-moment show tunes that can hold up to many songs you hear in contemporary musicals or commercial radio.
Inspired by an audience suggestion of “burning newspapers,” they performed a mashup of songs with some sweet harmonies. No doubt, this duo draws from a deep well of music.
Dark Side of the Room
Formed by African-American performers of Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, this four-person improv troupe plays off stereotypes. The first thing they did was ask the audience to throw out ideas of “things you think black people don’t know anything about.”
Everyone scratches their head in astonishment. Someone suggests country music. Laughter. Another individual yells out birds. Groans. Then a volunteer is asked personal questions about his life. He loves brunch and waffles are his go-to choice.
The improv troupe jumps into a skit about two male lovers making breakfast while a neighbour calls the police. She’s seen a strange man lurking in her neighbour’s yard. He’s black so he must be trouble.
The jokes were solid, the pacing fast and the injection of racism, a societal issue layered beneath the laughter, was brilliant.
Man versus machine. Can the bits and bytes of machine metal match the wits of a human improviser? Turns out a computer can – to a point – in this locally generated show.
But the setup was angled awkwardly making it difficult to tell if the human creator was typing words into the computer or if the computer was randomly creating its own answers. This show is less about comedy and more about the wonder of future technology.
This fivesome led by female and trans performers harnesses the value of fun while educating audiences with narratives about their lives. This was a hit-and-miss show with more hits than misses.
Tickets are $15 to $25 at www.rapidfiretheatre.com