Hideout Improv Marathon
Going out like meteors: blazing
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., July 3, 2009
Going to an improv show at the crack of dawn on a Sunday is a tad surreal. Nowhere near as surreal, I'm sure, as performing improv then – especially when you've already been doing that for 38 hours straight – but still. First surprise: that once you're in the performance space, the Hideout Theatre at 7am feels a lot like the Hideout Theatre at 11pm. With the world screened out, the look of the stage and audience anticipation are the same as in an evening show. Second and bigger surprise: that eight improvisers who had been at it nonstop since before sunset Friday could be so sharp, focused, and riotously funny. Anyone at the finale of the Hideout's inaugural 40-Hour Improv Marathon to see a spectacular flameout by one or more of the sleep-deprived performers got a, well, rude awakening. What flames there were came from these improv pros being on fire: listening to one another as keenly as surveillance ops, consistently making clever choices that moved scenes in fresh directions, and keeping track of what had been created in earlier scenes, then calling back elements for comic effect. In hour 39, with guests McNichol and May, an offhand line about a spring break trip to Omaha sparked a whole series of scenes about the Nebraska metropolis: from a Grapes of Wrath-style family migration to Omaha, imagined as a biblical paradise with honey flowing from building tops, to a Brooklyn mob couple in the witness relocation program grousing about the city's cordiality. In that 50-minute succession of scenes, the players were as smooth, supportive of one another, ingenious, and hilarious as any improvisers I've seen in town. And that was just as true in the final hour. Even when the eight who had gone the distance – Kareem Badr, Kaci Beeler, Matt Pollock, Curtis Luciani, Jeremy Lamb, Andy Crouch, Troy Miller, and Caitlin Sweet – could see the finish line and punchiness occasionally overtook them, they remained in top form, playing off whatever happened – hearing a baby's cry in the audience during a scene in a space station, they made it a "space nursery" – and building a cohesive story of various threads that they pulled together in dazzling fashion. Like the meteors they referenced in this last spontaneous tale, the eight improvisers of this first marathon went out in a glorious blaze of light.