The Next Stage Improv show last Saturday night took me back to sophomore year in high school — and that’s not a bad thing. I’ve heard every single Chuck Norris joke drummed up in my day, but the improv group pulled off a decent show even though they grappled with a redundant topic.
According to co-founder Jason Lee Boyson, Next Stage Improv is theater for non-theater goers. The group puts on a long-form improvisational-comedy show fueled by audience suggestions, all the way down to theme, characters, and plot. To date, the group has conjured acts about Harry Potter, Alfred Hitchcock, and, of course, our favorite Texas Ranger.
The night I attended, the show started out strong, with short, sweet skits reminiscent of Whose Line is it Anyway? The real star of the first half was host John Poole. His vibrant charisma pulled in the audience, and drew suggestions out of the quietest of us while keeping the raucous regulars in check. Under the host’s instructions, the audience drew cards, picked a random sing-a-long song from a CD, and offered up outlandish situations in mini-games that always ended in genuine laughter thanks to strong performances by the improv troupe.
After a short intermission, the long-form act commenced. Here the audience started to fail the performers, because we managed to come up with the most difficult story possible — the aforementioned Norris theme. James Peden, Rebecca Coffey, and Michael Burger in particular shone throughout the performance, but the entire group demonstrated serious potential.
The Next Stage Improv show is limited by its audience. The only way to see the act at its maximum potential is to speak up, so don’t be afraid to participate. The Overtime Theater is designed to make viewers comfortable, and the way the stage is set up, it feels more like an intimate get-together with friends rather than a stiff theater show. Really, really shy? That’s fine, too — a group of regulars will carry the show if no one else will, and you can just sit back and laugh.
Before you go, you can check the website for the theme for the next show: it’s posted a week early, to promote brainstorming. Parking is usually not an issue, but arrive 15 minutes early just in case. Don’t worry, the eccentric local art decorating the theater will keep you entertained till the games begin! •
Next Stage Improv
1216 West Ave.