Presented by ImprovBoston
Directed by Luke Bruneaux
Featuring the talents of Kaitlin Buckley, Sumeet Sarin, Taylor Cotter, Rachel Jane Andelman, Ryan Dalley & Francesca Villa
Kristina Stapelfeld on electric guitar
January 2, 9, & 16, 2016
Saturdays at 11PM
40 Prospect Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
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Review by Kitty Drexel
(Cambridge, MA) There is a cognitive dissonance that affects performers when converting material between an audience of peers to an audience of strangers. For whatever reason, the gags found most hilarious by one’s peers tend to fall flat on an audience of strangers. Fate’s determination of success and failure is one of the pitfalls of theatre. This truth is one of the harshest for newer performers to learn.
The audience for True Defective at ImprovBoston on Saturday night was unevenly divided between peers who picked up on subtle humor born of familiarity between friends in the cast, and strangers who didn’t. As a stranger, it was a frustrating performance to watch considering that ¾ of the room found the improv uproariously funny and ¼ didn’t. This is a difficult review to write because there was a lot of potential humor on stage that went untapped. We strangers wanted to enjoy ourselves as much as the other audience members. We didn’t.
It appeared to my companion and I, that the True Defective cast relied heavily on personal comfort, surprise, and filler chatter to create their improv. When the cast asked for suggestions from the audience, as they do, they requested a location and an item. We were set in Minneapolis. As for the item request, the first audience suggestion was tossed out because one of the performers didn’t know what an (trigger warning: weird sex stuff) ovipositor was. Not everyone can know everything but in improv there are supposed to be no incorrect answers. If an actor doesn’t know what’s going on, they fake it until they do. This simple to understand, difficult to implement concept was neglected by our cast.
The rest of the show was fairly similar to the first fifteen minutes: gags were situation based and not inter-relationship based. The energy of the quiet cast was very low and didn’t reach the back of the small room. What’s further, the cast would sidestep direct questions from their own troupe regarding the plot. For example: questions regarding the innocence of a guilty murderer were gingerly answered with indefinite chitchat. It’s improv; the general rule is make the bold choice, and tell us how and why you did it. It cuts immediately to the chase by skipping unnecessary BS and shotgunning directly into the comedy.
The scenes that worked were the confessional interviews with one actor on stage delivering a monologue and another on a mic. We cared more about our heroes then than at any other time because they gave us reason to be interested in them. Also, the actors experienced minor surges of energy in the spotlight. The confessionals looked and sounded sincere. The audience got to relax a bit.
The minty fresh improv-song stylings and the hippy guitar groove of musician Kristina Stapelfeld were miced. She had high energy and appeared to be having a blast. She was only allowed to participate twice in the hour long show. That’s too bad. An hour of Stapelfeld and friends™ has great potential for hilarity.
When the cast was funny, they were very funny. But watching them get to the point at which they got out of their own way was rough. These moments of sincerity weren’t sustained by the cast long enough to produce a plump, fully-developed performance. The ideas were there but not the implementation. Truthfully, the cast wasn’t performing to their capabilities. For whatever reason, they were holding back. Except for Stapelfeld. She was great.