BWW Review: JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED - Hysterical 90 Minutes of Jane Austen-esque Improv Unparalleled
IMPRO THEATRE'S JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED/by Impro Theatre/directed by Dan O'Connor & Paul Rogan/The Edye Theatre at The Broad Stage/thru December 20, 2015
In IMPRO THEATRE'S JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED; seven very talented, quick-thinking members of the Impro Theatre, with only two idea suggestions from the audience, act out (sans script) a hysterical complete beginning-middle-and-end of a tale based on Jane Austen's writings. The initial audience suggestion "fashion" had the December 5th's performance open with two sisters Lydia and Henrietta discussing Henrietta's dress that Lydia created for her. Their widower father Mr. Green has encouraged both daughters to attend Mr. Dalton's ball later that evening to be available for respectable, wealthy suitors. Age differences has much less importance than the respectability (a.k.a. wealthiness) of the man. Age difference in the two actresses portraying the two sisters does elicit a much deserved laugh, as the younger-appearing actress plays the older sibling.
The second act resumed with the troupe taking the audience's second suggestion of which two characters to be the focused upon.
With each performance unique and totally different from show-to-show, only the eye-appealing true-to-Victorian period costumes and minimal set pieces (both by designer Sandra Burns) remain constant. Well-timed sound effects by Alex Caan greatly enhanced the laugh inducement of the laughter-instigating cast (all with their consistent Jane Austen accents down). From intentionally bad puns ("women in distress" to "woman in this dress") to the wonderful verb-ing of the term "haberdash" to "haberdashed," these collective inventive minds will never let me ever see again anything "aerated" as anything less than "R-rated." The restrained use of double entendres made the frequent mention of "aerated" all the more memorable.
Amanda Troop and Kelly Holden Bashar inhabited their respective roles of the shy older Lydia and the confident supportive younger Henrietta with much believability. Lisa Fredrickson with her wildly comic antics did manage to steal all her scenes as the accident-prone, man-hungry Cordelia Burlington. Co-director Dan O'Connor as Mr. Green made his responding lines home-runs hit out of the theatre with their totally unexpected sharp u-turns of plot. Brilliant!
Stephen Kearin's perfectly foppish as the well-to-do Mr. Dalton with serious designs on Henrietta. Kearin had a perfectly delightful improvised bit of physical comedy with Bashar involving tiny sandwiches and tiny tongs. Bashar responds with an inspired use of her tiny napkins dabbing her eyes. Brava, Mz. Bashar.
Each of Lydia's three suitors of Lydia got their individual moments to shine: Nick Massouh as the very rich, great present-giver Mr. Collinsworth; Brian Lohmann as the concerned and/or jealous coat factory owner Richard Burlington; and the audience's pick-to-win Lydia's affections - Ryan Smith as Robert Temple, er, Robert Timple.
Nice execution of a three-couple criss-crossed, changing partners ballroom dance, with of witty asides interspersed between steps.
Who said Jane Austen had to be stuffy drawing-room drama???