The Austin Chronicle

ColdTowne: Home on the strange

By Wayne Alan Brenner, August 3, 2007, Arts

There's that phenomenon where a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, right? And we've already covered a few members of the ColdTowne improv troupe in this series of reviewish profiles, and we've had little but good to say about them, remember? But this isn't a case where the whole is greater than et cetera, no, we can't report that.

But. Recall that the ColdTowne individuals or minicombos we've noted have been consistently impressive, and be reassured that the troupe, altogether, is certainly equal to the sum of its parts, and you'll know that you're in for a really enjoyable time watching these guys do their stuff.

ColdTowne formed in New Orleans in 2005, then moved to Austin after Hurricane Katrina turned the troupe's home base into FEMA's Soggy Folly. The members displayed their talents and training at the Hideout and at the Out of Bounds Improv Festival, racked up some primo recognition, then opened their own joint, ColdTowne Theater, in which to ply their trade and teach their students. It was a slow start, but now they're picking up esteem and often playing to packed, cheering houses. Cream, as they say, rising to the top.

The night we went to get reacquainted with ColdTowne's ever-changing act, Michael Jastroch, Justin York, Tami Nelson, Arthur Simone, and Chris Trew were wrapping their quick and clever minds around the suggestions "Supreme Court" and "séance." A series of scenes, mostly untethered from any common narrative, blew across the boards like a gale-force gallimaufry intent on flattening the audience's resistance to laughter. There were sketches about a judge consulting with a demon, a woman more in love with her dog than with her boyfriend, multiple prayer-answers requested of a god as if he were a sort of omnipotent drive-up-window flunky, a waiter/bodybuilder trapped by free weights while his shiftmate/spotter was in the lunch-rush weeds, all of it more or less spurred by the two suggestions or by tangents off those suggestions. The players were sharp and fierce (especially that Tami Nelson, hoo boy), working the material with much theatrical gusto, and seemed to be having as much fun as the audience was having: always a good sign in improv.

Another good sign in improv, we suggest: That sign along the road to entertainment that says, "Now Entering ColdTowne."

ColdTowne performs Saturdays, 10pm, at ColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport. For more information, call 524-2807 or visit

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