Improv does Sondheim (Williams & Shakespeare) at the Odyssey

The cast of “Sondheim UnScripted,” part of UnScripted Rep at The Odyssey Theatre.

“When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.” This is so true in the art of improvisation, where listening, timing and thinking on one’s feet are of the essence. The Odyssey Theatre takes a new spin on this fine art with its Impro Theatre’s UnScripted Rep, inspired by the styles of all time greats Tennessee Williams, William Shakespeare and Stephen Sondheim. As Michelle Spears (Ensemble; Co-Director, Sondheim, UnScripted) promises, “no show is ever the same.” Drawing upon themes suggested interactively by the audience (at my show, it was marriage and slaughterhouses), the ensemble collaborates and creates a Sondheim-esque work of art with merely a skeleton of an idea. With soaring counter melodies akin to “You Are Not Alone“ from Into the Woods, and shades of Sweeney Todd with macabre butcher references, the musical production had nuances so credible, Sondheim himself would be in awe!

Each troupe member has vast experience in improv, as was evident by their witty repartee and energetic physicality. Lisa Fredrickson, an ensemble member of improv companies for 22 years, finds this theatrical homage to literary greats, “the most fun and challenging yet.” States Brian Lohman (Ensemble; Director, Williams, Unscripted), “It’s quite humbling to do Sondheim’s work, and not be too sentimental or mocking…” Inspired by Sondheim’s shows, ranging from fairy tales to assassin, this improv company put together a show based on complex themes, with lyrics so profound: “Why should I settle? It’s unsettling — it’s love — it’s time I plant my roots and grow… One day you buy a ring, and everything changes — every step we take, every piece of cake.” The show, like the institution of marriage itself, is a true commitment by all involved, and truly “no piece of cake,” but rather an intense labor of love.

Impro Theatre’s UnScripted Rep runs through May 29

on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

On April 13, 14 and 29, tickets will be “pay what you can“ (minimum $5). For ticket information, call (310) 477-2055, or visit Odysseytheatre.com. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.

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