Los Angeles Theater Review: SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED (Imprō Theatre at the Carrie Hamilton)

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by Jason Rohrer on April 1, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Mistaken identities, cross-dressing, puns, fart jokes and dick jokes and pussy jokes.  You know where you can find these?  Movies starring Saturday Night Live alumni.  That’s about how funny they are: they’re not.  And they’re about as funny as Shakespeare ever got.  The only people who buy tickets to Shakespeare comedies are college-educated men who want to act like they know how to show a girl a (front) STEPHEN KEARIN, EDI PATTERSON (rear L to R) MICHAEL MANUEL, BRIAN LOHMANN, DANIEL BLINKOFF, and LISA FREDRICKSON in SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED by Impro Theatre.sophisticated good time, despite evidence that she’d rather watch vampires have sex on TV.  That addled guy, and theater people’s mother-guilt sense of cultural obligation, are the only reasons Shakespeare comedies get mounted.

Impro Theatre, however, is funny and sophisticated, and will make your date look at you with new eyes.  Your date will say, “Gee, your choice of entertainment suggests a great deal of respect for me, and for yourself.  In fact, now that you’ve shown me this amazing thing, I see myself in a new light, as someone who wants to go down on someone like you.”

I could tell you stories but a gentleman doesn’t and neither will I.

NICK MASSOUH holding BRIAN MICHAEL JONES in SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED by Impro Theatre.Among Impro’s many genre-emulation performance styles that it collectively calls UnScripted (Austen, Williams, Noir, Chekhov, Twilight Zone, others) is Shakespeare, and being a comedy-oriented theater, Impro doesn’t make up a tragedy every night.  They improvise two-act comedies, with the traditional Shakespearean elements of Italian locale, outrageously contrived obstacles to romance, and a remarkable number of rhyming couplets spoken by besotted courtiers, lovestruck dukes, overzealous servants.  And yes, there might be cross-dressing (there wasn’t, opening night); there might be a mistaken identity or two (I don’t know how you’d do a Shakespearean comedy without at least one).  There certainly will be some sexual innuendo, but opening night the dick jokes were in short supply and the fart jokes nonexistent.  Because along with as high a degree of general excellence in writing, acting, and direction as I have seen in any theater company in America, Impro has in abundance another rare element: taste.

(L to R) STEPHEN KEARIN, KARI COLEMAN, BRIAN MICHAEL JONES, NICK MASSOUH and EDI PATTERSON in SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED by Impro Theatre.Which is not to call them a bunch of stuffed-shirt academics.  They’re as racy as Derby Day when they want to be, and a more adventurous gang of thespians you will not meet.  But you could bring your grandmother to this thing, and she would not scold you; you could bring your kids, and they would not call you square, or whatever kids call parents these days.  You could bring that date I was pointedly not telling you about.  Every time I go to see them, at some point the person in front of me turns around and gives me a dirty look, because I’m laughing as hard as it is possible for a theater critic to laugh.  Which, it turns out: pretty goddamn hard.

photos by Blake Gardner

Shakespeare UnScripted
Imprō Theatre
Carrie Hamilton Theatre
(upstairs at the Pasadena Playhouse)
39 S. El Molino in Pasadena
scheduled to end on May 4, 2014
for tickets, call 626-356-7529 or visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

{ 1 comment }

Laura Erb April 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Thank you for the great review Jason. I always enjoy your posts at the Impro FB page, you really GET it! I shared your review on my timeline because I’ve been touting Impro for a while now, and we Oregonians only get one chance a year to see them. Keep up the great work, it’s so refreshing to see and hear from people who value true innovation and such bodacious talent! Not to mention the fact that they are flipping hilarious. And just so you know, I would never turn around and give you a dirty look because I would be right there laughing with you!

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