Jenni Cochran, Chris Anger, Brian Hinda and Alec Volz. Photo by Lily Bartenstein.
In Buy the Book, The Louisville Improvisers trade in their usual menu of short form improv games for a daringly extended format that takes its inspiration from one source. A local author reads a brief passage from their latest book, providing the raw material for the four-member group to depart on a 45-minute journey into the absurd.
Opening night the author was broadcast anchor Barry Bernson reading aloud from his memoir, Bernson’s Corner: A Reporter’s Notebook, a section that provided the image of a five-year-old aspiring newshound in 1952. For anyone familiar with The Louisville Improvisers, the action begins much as it would in their customary “day in the life” segments, with the facts quickly being forgotten in the wake of a more imaginative version of the seed story.
Chris Anger took the role of little Barry, The Boy Who Can Read – a child gifted with literacy in a world in which this is a rare skill. The fact that his journey to adulthood encompassed summer camp, a visit to the Great Wall of China, and involvement in a secret plot controlled by two mysterious German agents named Hans and Dieter is indicative of the inspired lunacy that sprang to life onstage. It was fascinating to see how the improvisation grew from seemingly random choices in which the players (besides Mr. Anger, Jenni Cochran, Brian Hinds and Alec Volz) are eagerly seeking laughs, to a fully-fledged narrative structure, albeit a sprawling and nonsensical one, that incorporated elements as disparate as the history of carbon paper and Jason Vorhees (from Friday the 13th).
Good improvisational comedy feeds off of the audience, and opening night was graced by a good-sized crowd that found the exercise a raucous pleasure, including a clearly delighted Mr. Bernson, who seemed to take no umbrage at the extremity of the literary license being taken with his life. The show format will be repeated during the SLANT Culture Theatre Festival with other authors, but Mr. Bernson will return for a second round on Friday, November 16, at 9:30 p.m.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner