Get Up: How funky and strong is their fight
Shannon McCormick and Shana Merlin who make up the improv duo Get Up are comfortable working together, like two parts of an interlocking dream machine
Shannon McCormick, that tall, sleek comrade with the cue-ball noggin and wild eyes, and Shana Merlin, that shortish fox with the million-watt smile. That's the comedy improv duo called Get Up, at least from the outside. One can only imagine the sort of mental circuitry crackling on the inside, sparking scenes and synchronicity and inspired silliness fit to impress and amuse all but the moribund.
This is unsurprising. The two have been on the local scene for a while now and are two of its brightest lights. McCormick's also the co-producer of the annual Out of Bounds Improv Festival and one-third of Buzz Moran's Foleyvision; Merlin's one of the fiercest components of musical improv troupe Girls, Girls, Girls, a mainstay of the Heroes of Comedy, and has been teaching improv professionally for years. These two have galvanized stages either together or separately since 2001.
Now Get Up has a monthlong tenure at Salvage Vanguard Theater's new HQ, performing live with a different twosome each Saturday at 10:30pm. (It's a plum gig, to be sure; but then, McCormick's also the venue's program director.) We recently caught their inaugural show they appeared after a set by McNichol & May, about whom there'll be more in a later review and we weren't disappointed.
Picture it: Get Up's on the stripped-bare set for SVT's current project. The sound crew in the tech booth plays a swell of music, the sort of thing that might herald the start of an especially pompous commercial for freeze-dried coffee. The audience is asked to shout out what associations spring up from such orchestral maneuvering. "Wicker!" "Pottery Barn!" "Lemonade on a porch!" And they're off.
Forty-five minutes later, they're wrapping up the story of an obsessed middle-aged birder and his sullen teenage son, which tale has intersected and converged with the story of an Alaskan senator and his estranged wife, which narrative has run smack into the account of an Inuit middle-school teacher exploring the wilderness. And all these threads and people come together, with each improviser taking several roles (sometimes simultaneously), incorporating supporting characters, and often riffing off each other's gambits smoothly enough that we suspect telepathy. McCormick and Merlin are comfortable working together, like two parts of an interlocking dream machine, and this translates into capers that are usually believable no matter how, uh, funky the premise that spawned them.
Because Get Up knows how to get down.
Get Up performs June 23 & 30, Saturday, 10:30pm, at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. For more information, visit getup.austinimprov.com.