It’s usually considered impolite for an audience member to speak to a performer during a show. This form of harassment is known as heckling. But, it happened several times during this performance. It wasn’t out of place though, because the producer of the show herself was even interrupting. You see, that’s the point of this show. Too long have paying customers had to go home with a nagging thought or question still on their minds. “Show & Tell” is there for you, my friends. Now you can finally feel like you are in the green room without needing the talent or hard work required to get there.
The performers on this given night began with a two person scene. A suggestion of “popcorn” was supplied by the audience and a very awkward first date at a baseball game ensued. “What’s your name?” the woman asked. “Today it’s Gary.” the man responded. “My real name is Sharon” the woman offered. The man seemed rather off-put. “You seem really embarrassed about Sharon”, he commented. In any normal setting the date would end right there but of course the situation became heightened when the man revealed he had brought not only a knife but also a gun to the old ballpark. The woman still had a trick up her sleeve too. She had been in prison for the last seven years for killing several men.
After grilling each other as characters, the two performers got grilled by the audience. After being asked why she wanted her character to have a serious dark side, the woman responded that “women often get murdered. It’d be nice to change it up a little bit.” Another audience member wanted to know “How do you decide which ideas to hold onto and which to forget about?” The two performers explained that it basically just depends on the scene and the way it is going. “It’s a personal choice for a female… that we can murder too”, she quipped for emphasis.
The next scene featured another guy and gal. This time the suggestion supplied was “ghost.” It didn’t take long for the two improvisers to establish that they had stolen two lawn chairs and thus deserved any bad thing that might come their way. Their night time conversation centered around ghosts, of course, but also spanned variance of dialects, random Americana, and rocking jean shorts while running with sparklers. Their conversation was rudely interrupted however by the ghost of a bearded Civil War General. Before the two friends completely lost their cool, they got to see the General “relive” his gruesome death.
The audience didn’t miss a beat after the scene ended and peppered the three performers with several more questions. One of the questions revolved around the fact that the female improviser had misspoken a word during the scene. The audience member wanted to know whether it is best to ignore a mistake like that or to call it out. The former General responded poignantly. “When you sweep it under the rug, the audience is like, what is that?” But it isn’t called out due to malicious intent. “We don’t look at mistakes in this building” he finished.
The next scene did not feature a suggestion. It starred two male performers who started their scene with a lot of nervous energy. I suppose you would be nervous too if you had just burned down the building that you had worked in for the last several years. Don’t worry though, they had a plan. “We’ll get away” one performer suggested. “Doesn’t Belgium in Spring sound wonderful?” Apparently not wonderful enough because his co-conspirator ended up having to slap him to get him to calm down. “You scratched my cornea!” he shouted. In time, they both still had enough vision intact to continue to admire their handiwork.
After the scene, an audience member wanted to know “if you’re not basing” -a scene- “off of a suggestion, how do you come up with a scene like that?” The performers explained that there is non-verbal communication that goes on between improvisers at the beginning of a scene. Those signals end up dictating in which direction things go.
The final portion of the show was composed of about thirty minutes of a Harold. The group of improvisers brought together from different teams flowed seamlessly from scene to scene without seemingly needing the months and years of practice normally required for play at this level. The Harold began with a suggestion of “washing” and a brilliant group improvisation ensued. “For the women of the 80’s”, one woman remarked. “For the men of the 90’s”, another improviser added. “And for the they of 2016”, one other performer finished.
The rest of the Harold was comprised of scenes describing everything from dating vampires to a couple attempting to connect in prison before the husband’s date with an electric chair. A little sympathy seemed to be felt by the audience until the husband asked “Are any of the kids here? I’d love for them to see this.”
After the Harold, the cast members took the audience questions and answered them sincerely even though they admitted they were spent. “My body and my brain feel a little sore right now”, one improviser said. Another improviser spoke candidly about how she did not have as much experience with the art form as the other performers. “The framework of the Harold is very comforting for me”, she said. The improviser added that she really appreciated the help supplied by the other improvisers. After that, the show wrapped. As I walked out, I realized that I had a question that I didn’t get a chance to ask. Thankfully, this show can provide me another chance.
“Show & Tell” is produced by improvisation innovator and iO co-founder, Charna Halpern. It runs every Tuesday from July 12th through August 9th. Tickets are $12. The show is free for iO performers and students. iO Chicago is located at 1501 N. Kingsbury. Call 312-929-2401.
WORK IN PROGRESS is written and performed by Abby McEnany and directed by Brendan Dowling. It plays Fridays at 10:30pm at The Chris Farley Cabaret
Remaining dates of original run – 7/22, 7/29
EXTENSION – 8/12, 8/19, 9/2 (no shows on 8/5 or 8/26)
Tickets $14, Free for iO students and performers