Presented by Improv Boston
Review by Danielle Rosvally
Edited to reflect an extension of the review that was not originally posted (but should have been). We blame Microsoft 2010. That jerk.
(Cambridge) Alright, I know you’ve got them; you know you’ve got them; it’s time to come clean. Let’s face it: you’re not the only one who spent part of their awkward teenaged years hurling spells at your friends in knock-down drag-out duels on table-tops in cafeterias during free periods. If Magic: The Gathering offers any hint of nostalgia for you (or even the slightest amount of shame; after all, some things are healthy to feel ashamed about), you should consider rolling by ImprovBoston some Friday night to catch Magic: The Gathering: The improv Show. It’s basically what it sounds like: an improv troupe performing full-contact Magic: the Gathering exactly the way your imagination made it seem back in those pimple-hazed years. Two wizards duke it out at an on-stage table while the improv pit lends them a little assist in making the implicit explicit; because who doesn’t like seeing their imagination come to life?
One of the show’s highlights was an extra bonus feature not often found with live improv. No fantasy world would be complete without a soundscape, and this show definitely delivers: it comes with its own live music! A convenient keyboardist is on hand to play the audience through the evening and to provide just the right background noise at just the right dramatic moment.
Unfortunately, the production wields a double-edged sword as its greatest strength and weakness. The two featured players were adept at describing their in-game actions as they abided by the rules of the card game. Because of this, even a non-Magic player could follow the contest of waggishly warring wits. Unfortunately, this also meant that moments at the table tended to drag. Since the players were so carefully and adamantly describing their moves, this took away precious time from what we really wanted to see: the funny improvised scenarios that their fellows were (literally) waiting in the wings to perform. In a compact show like this (the production was a slim ninety minutes with one short interval), you really want to jam as much action as you can onto the stage and keep things rolling along. Because of the nature of this show’s frame, the action often came to a grinding halt just as it was getting to be well and truly hilarious.
It didn’t help that the improvisers started off slow. The first act definitely had less energy and drive than the second and thereby (by all rules of comedy extant on this earth) was markedly less funny.
Additionally, since the first half of a Magic game generally entails building up a mana pool (….uh…. you know…. I mean… at least… someone told me that was the case. My boyfriend. Ex boyfriend. He was a loser. Complete nerd. I definitely never played Magic… or owned magic cards… or twenty sided dice… no, no need to look in that bottom drawer of my desk, nothing to see there just relics from my past….), the cards put down on the table in these early stages really aren’t all that exciting. Magic: The Gathering: The Show was diligent about dramatizing every single move made and, because of that tendency, its audience got to see a great many tress grow. Literally. There were entire turns where we watched trees grow.
I think that this show has huge potential and I was definitely entertained by the onstage antics of its performers. If I could give them one critique, it would be to tighten up the rules-lawyering a bit and really let their improv artists shine. There are obviously some very talented people on that stage, they’re just not being allowed enough room to do that voodoo they do.