I get a lot of press releases and review requests from theater and PR firms and often agree to attend without reading much about the show—there’s a great anticipation watching the lights come up on a play you know almost nothing about. Occasionally, however, this tactic means I end up attending a musical or an improv show. And following the maxim that a critic shouldn’t review a show he’s predisposed to dislike, I should not review musicals or improv.
SLASHER is a one hour improv play in the vein of a B-movie horror. There’s an unnecessarily precautious “splash area” where the audience may be stained with stray stage blood. An audience member’s spin of a wheel dictates the setting and holiday (a school on Easter weekend, on opening night). If this sounds like a description of the kind of show you like to see, you’ll probably like SLASHER. The actors establish their caricatures well (sex-obsessed boy,weird Christian girl, bad girl, goody two-shoes, etc.), there are some fast-response jokes, and some funny moments.
But judged as theater, SLASHER suffers from flaws common to improv: There are pauses and repetitions, the jokes are broad and obvious, the plot uninspired. Actors can improvise a broad-stroke character quickly, but they can’t make up good dialog or plot. At its best, improv acknowledges this and uses audience participation to change the theatrical experience into more intimate, existential entertainment. Generally, though, I’d rather see well-written dialog aiding thought-out sequential action (minus song breaks!). But that’s why I shouldn’t be reviewing improv theater. October 17-27, 2013, figmenttheater.org.