Regional Theater Review: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED (Impro Theatre at South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa)

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by Daniel S. G. Wood on March 1, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Impro Theatre’s long-form improvisational theater is among the most impressive of the performing arts. At South Coast Rep, the group proffered a full-length Tennessee Williams play which is made up on the spot. For every Tennessee Williams UnScripted during the short run, the performers show up with nothing but dramaturgic know-how and two words from the audience to perform almost two hours of convincing theater. If that sounds impressive, it is nothing compared to witnessing it.

Watching the improvised drama unfold is electric: Not only are you observing them scaffold and finish what is fundamentally a bunch of interconnected sketches, but then the piece blooms into a remarkable evening of theater by itself. You can see every player sense their unfolding purpose. You can see their sensitivity to potential plot devices. The group easily weaves Williams’ Southern Gothic and repressed sexuality (among other themes) into the framework. The virtuosity is simply palpable.

Obviously this level of freedom is the result of a lot of training and research (these actors have collectively spent almost a century studying improv). With this foundation, they deftly build a very real drama which is often hysterical—although being funny isn’t their goal—and never do they feel forced or rehearsed. The ensemble’s objective is paradoxically the same as legitimate theater—while Impro Theatre attempts to present a piece that looks as if it had been rehearsed, legitimate theater tries to convince you this is the first time they’ve performed (think about it). After seeing this show, the plot of which will be entirely different when you attend, I know which method I prefer. In the words of Williams: “It is planned speeches that contain lies or dissimulations, not what you blurt out so spontaneously in one instant.”


Tennessee Williams UnScripted
Impro Theatre
Nicholas Studio
South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Dr. in Costa Mesa
scheduled to end on March 2, 2014
for tickets, call (714) 708-5555 or visit

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