La Donna Improvvisata
Presented by ImprovBoston
Starring, improvised by Lisa Flanagan
Musical accompaniment by Mike Descouteaux
Review by Noelani Kamelamela
(Cambridge, MA) Musical improv is a special permutation of improvisational comedy. I think it appeals to people who both love comedy and have a lot of experience in listening to different genres of music. I’ve certainly been subjected to short form musical improv in which the creation of mostly unrelated individual song-scenes felt much longer than the allotted two minutes. Stringing short song-scenes together into a long form musical improv set can be challenging even for mid-sized groups to tackle. Musical abilities and frequently a pianist are required. One supporting piece that can be useful is the addition of a premise. In “La Donna Improvvisata,” Lisa Flanagan did a unique send-up of opera tropes entirely with the help of one accompanist on keyboard.
After asking for audience suggestions regarding stereotypical characters, motivations and overarching plot, Lisa Flanagan and Mike Descouteaux launched into an inspired forty five minute piece that made fun of Germanic opera stereotypes and ably took Mozart’s melodies for a ride on a very large horse through a dark forest. Interspersed with jabs at old world aristocracy and fancy, professional trills was the occasional burst of physical comedy. Whether she’s riding a horse or romancing . . . herself in another role, Flanagan committed fully to each role. As an audience member, I sensed that she was not only seeing the other characters, but interacting also with the costumes and props she felt appropriate to her present state.
This one woman show was a very smooth ride with no stops or stutters. She produced the initial incarnation of the work with Frank Spitznagel, her pianist and collaborator in New York City at the Magnet three years ago. It was fitting that she brought this piece back to Boston where she first started doing improvisation. Next up for Lisa Flanagan should be more voiceover work, acting, writing, and improvising. To keep up to date with her comings and goings visit her Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisur, and to keep up with Mike Descouteaux catch him at Improv Boston where he is currently the Artistic Director.