The Heroes of Comedy boldly go where no troupe has gone before
You know what improv comedy troupes do, basically, right? How they take audience suggestions and turn them into a narrative onstage, performing the whole thing off the cuff, on the fly, right before your incredulous eyes? And you know how these shows can run over an hour, with however many scenes it takes to reach, they hope, a conclusion?
This can be tough going, especially when there are more than two performers trying to mesh their speech and actions toward a unified goal. But when the going gets tough, that's often when it also gets the funniest. The Heroes of Comedy the house troupe at downtown's Hideout Theatre feature eight performers tough enough, inventive enough, to restrict themselves not only to audience suggestions, but to set the resultant story firmly and hilariously in the Star Trek universe. And that's the original series, thank you, as first sprung so Roddenberrily on an unsuspecting America in the 1960s.
My teenage daughter ignorant of the premise, save for two hastily rented DVDs of original-series episodes and I caught a recent performance of the Heroes' Start Trekkin', and we're thanking our lucky stars that we did.
The cast of eight, working their narrative from the suggestions "android," "Cleveland," "abortion," and "nonexistent," wove a tale of insurrection via the weaponizing of a deadly "bio-robotic" virus. Scene after scene, with different combinations of characters, shamelessly low-tech set changes, and impressively impromptu lighting and sound, drove the story of how the captain (a charismatic and astonishingly clever Shatner-channeler named Ben Sterling) and crew of the Starship Dead Bird struggled against the evil machinations of a power-mad, virus-wielding synthetic human who'd taken over a space station as a prelude to galactic conquest. That the virus was called, ridiculously, Quarantine; that the android's robotic clone-sister was also a Dead Bird officer; that the ship's engineer happened to have an identical twin brother aboard the space station: These were just a few of the wilder revelations that surprised the audience and the players. David Lampe as twinned engineer Cliff Engineer was a constant, fleet-of-mind delight, as was crypto-robotic science officer Kacey Samiee and android terrorist Jay Michael. The rest of the cast worked valiantly to keep up with these improv warriors and their sensei Sterling, provoking even more laughter accidentally as on purpose, all of them transporting the audience to a depraved new world of improvisational entertainment. We'll be going back, at warp speed.
Start Trekkin' runs through May 28, Saturdays, 9pm, at the Hideout, 617 Congress, For more information, call 443-3688 or visit www.heroescomedy.com.