BWW Review: IMPROVISED SHAKESPEARE as part of the DC Comedy Festival at Kennedy Center
There is a rule in the theater about knowing when to get off the stage so as not to give your audience too much of a good thing. The Improvised Shakespeare Company unfortunately did not follow this rule in presenting their totally improvised audience-named epic The Barber's Hat this past weekend at Kennedy Center as part of the DC Comedy Festival. All the greatness of their first hour was diminished by the last twenty plus minutes of their performance.
If you have not figured it out by now, the company creates a totally improvised script using the language and style Shakespeare would have used had he written the play himself. This is a great idea and the five performers are excellent improvisers, as you have to be to make this kind of show succeed.
The story took place in Padua and concerned Casio (Randall Harr) who is in love with the archduke's daughter (Brendan Dowling). He knows her father (Blaine Swen) will never allow the two to be wed so he goes to the town's barber Benvolio (Steve Waltein) for advice. What the barber offers is a hat that, if worn, will kill the person. Sounds like a Shakespeare plot doesn't it? What followed the plot set up were discussions about bad depth perception, a rousing production number, a really good imaginary fight sequence, among other things.
Unfortunately, the company ran out of steam after the first hour making what was initially brilliant improv work seem tedious by its end.
It's too bad because up to the big song (the name escapes me) the aforementioned performers identified above and Ross Bryant were really going strong. Their presentation style is remarkable with just hints of period costumes and three chairs.
Overall, you have to admire the talent of the performers and their improv skillset, but for me at least, there was a little too much 'show' to make the experience totally satisfying.
Running Time: 83 minutes at my performance.
Improvised Shakespeare was a two performance only engagement as part of the DC Comedy Festival at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater on July 22, 2017.
For info on the company, click here.