Improvisation is more than a parlor trick. It requires skill, timing, and specifically talent; even the most venerable actors are not capable of performing without a script, without structure, sans convention. Fortunately, the ensemble of Impro Theatre pulls it off with ease, guile, and panache. Simply stated, it is immensely enjoyable.
The brilliance is that the production infuses the comedies of Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. The stage is set like an Italian bistro. But it becomes an afterthought once the show begins. The cast infuses so much energy and action that one scarcely notices anything else. It is the power of their performance that allows total freedom of expression. The symmetry of the wordplay makes Shakespeare’s verse and prose all the easier to understand. In fact, it is quite poetic and sometimes beautiful. And yes, laughter abounds.
Directors Brian Lohmann and Dan O’Connor create an avenue for their talent to shine. Although there is not so much structure with improvisation, there is framework, and that is the fine line from comedy to chaos. The play’s the thing, and the characters are brought to life by a dedicated cast. All the performers were brilliant. Standouts include Kelly Holden-Bashar, Stephen Kearin, and Edi Patterson.
Like a fine Chianti, the show can be sipped and enjoyed. And like a whiskey, it packs a punch. Shakespeare would be overjoyed to know that his works can be interpreted in boundless ways.
Shakespeare Unscripted runs through May 4 at The Carrie Hamilton Theatre @ The Pasadena Playhouse located at 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena. For tickets call (626) 356-7529 or visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.