Improv is the jam band genre of theater: it often seems more fun to do than fun to watch. Sure, it provides tools to young actors and throws up occasional gems, but it also reminds us why we need playwrights. But as Shannon House (a collaborative company made up of graduates of Arden Theatre’s professional apprenticeship program) demonstrates, improv can also be used to inform and vivify a scripted performance.
Based on R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series of children’s literature, PAPERBACK DREADFUL rotates through four fast-moving scenes (e.g.,”Nightmare on the Pitcher’s Mound”, featuring a baseball glove with a Faustian curse), returning to each three times a la The Harold improv method. (The actual improv games between each rotation are the weakest link.) The four-actor cast switch frenetically from character to convincing character, with small yet clear signposts demarcating the changes. This is short attention-span theater, with steady laughs and high fun-quotient. The highlight: Dave Piccinetti giving a eulogy to an asshole brother. [Arden Theatre, Main Lobby] September 5-14, fringearts.ticketleap.com/paperback-dreadful.