The cast of A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol surely knows their improv. With jokes so witty you would assume they had been crafted over the course of days spouting out of actor’s mouths before they even have a chance to censor themselves, this production was unlike any other.
And truly, it is, for every night that Unexpected Productions puts on another show, the outcome is vastly different. Each night the audience gets a “choose your own adventure.” The audience is asked to call out answers to random questions such as “name a type of profession” or “something you would hide in your house.” Some answers are obvious as to how they will be incorporated into the show, but others are more subtle and unexpected.
The show is minimalistic and focuses on the quick thinking and movements of the actors — it has to; since each show is different, there is no way to determine what props would be needed. Paul Levy (who played Bob Cratchit) was particularly notable in his movements, helping the audience imagine a complete set that was not really there.
More than just quick on their feet on stage, the actors found ways to incorporate their costumes to match the scene, particularly Tony Beeman, who portrayed all three of the ghosts of Christmas. Jumping onto the stage with a sash around his head, ready to fight off any poorly dubbed Japanese ninjas that stood in his way, Beeman spit out hilariously spot-on statements such as, “Is it the cicada burrowing that is complicated? Or is it you considering the cicada burrowing who makes it complicated?”
The star of the show is, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge, the old, stuffy, penny-pinching shrewd who may be a music producer for Lady Gaga one day and a plumber the next (you decide…). Portrayed by Randy Dixon, he was, hands down, the funniest character on the stage. Dixon was an obvious leader and paraded the show through from start to finish.
Beeman and Dixon’s championing performances helped counterbalance the lack of quick wit that was unfortunately found with other cast members, particularly the younger women. Their acting seemed disingenuous and improvisation seemed to not come as naturally to them, and it could be seen as their minds whirled trying to come up with responses. Perhaps because they were attempting to perform next to actors who had practiced the art for many more years they seemed more inexperienced.
The production, overall, was a good show of improvisation and a nice family-friendly way to introduce more audience members to the world of improv. I enjoyed the show but felt there was a somewhat awkward imbalance between the seriousness of the rehearsed bits and the spontaneous hilarity of the improvisation. I was expecting something more from such a highly regarded company. But who knows what the next production will bring? It is, after all, Unexpected.
A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol
November 28 - December 27