Friday, February 6, 2015
Providence Improv Guild, Providence, RI
Show Rating: (67 out of 80)
We love Providence. The city is small, but it has a lot of heart; the same is true for its improv scene. We knew the minute that we arrived at last September’s Providence Improv Festival that it would quickly become one of our favorite places to play, and our instincts were right. Happily, we had the opportunity to return there this past Friday to perform at the Providence Improv Guild.
The location suggestion for our show was, appropriately, the Providence State House. What followed was an exploration of the space that, we quickly discovered, was haunted by the ghosts (200 of them, to be exact) of the legislators that preceded us. The ghostly nature of the location provided a very fun environment in which to play, as we found ourselves being literally dragged around the stage by external forces we couldn’t see, and finding fresh sources of increasing amounts of dubious and unidentified blood seemingly at every turn. It was a show with an unusual and strong – and sustained! – physicality. For that reason alone, walking off stage, it felt like a real victory.
Ultimately, however, we allowed the setting and its various quirks and permutations to entirely define the show and completely overwhelm us. We failed to establish a strong connection and relationship to each other at the top of the scene, to the point where, halfway through the show, we *still* didn’t have a full picture of who we were as characters, and who we were to each other.
And why did that happen, exactly? Well, for one, the first moments of the show were extremely tentative ones, and that tentativity induced a domino effect of premise-based and non-committal dialogue and subsequent internal judgment from which we never fully recovered. The character details we found midway through the piece were undeniably funny, sure – what *isn’t* funny about a man who based his entire political campaign around the slogan “I live here” revealing that he’s not actually from the state in question? – but these details came from a place of invention rather than mutual discovery. In short, we knew that we were afraid of what was happening all around us, but we had absolutely no clue about how we felt about literally anything else. For two people who have found their greatest successes and staked their claim around big emotional choices, their absence was, at best, immediately noticeable, and at worst, rattling.
The takeaway: The environment in which we find ourselves *should* be exciting and fun to play, but engaging it should *never* substitute for engaging with each other. The location should serve to activate and heighten the characters and connection we have already established through big emotional choices and reactions. That’s where the real fun lives! That being said, the show was funny and entertaining and different, and the audience was into it. This gives us a great launching pad for our west coast tour, which officially starts tomorrow.