“The Improvised Jane Austen” at Chemically Imbalanced Theatre
I don’t really like improv. Sometimes, living in Chicago, I feel I’m about to be stoned to death for this opinion. This is perhaps the city with the strongest improv scene in America. Generally, though, I find improv performance to be full of show-offs who are desperate to stand out as the funniest person onstage with little to no regard to the plot.
All that said, I love Jane Austen. If you can work her in to anything, I’m probably there.
There’s an improv group in Chicago – “The Improvised Jane Austen” – and when I learned they were doing shows at the Chemically Imbalanced Theatre I knew it was something I needed to check out. So, accompanied by my sparkling friend and fellow Austen-junkie Annie, I got my half-price tickets and headed to the show.
Clearly, the five ladies who took the stage have done their research into the world and conventions of Ms. Austen. After a one-word suggestion from the audience – “Temperature” – they opened a dictionary, pulled out a corresponding word, and set out to present a show called “Temperature and Tantalize.” All the key elements were in place – two sisters (one smart and one beautiful,) a gentleman cad, pushy parents, a ball – heck, there was even a girl with a wooden leg.
I’d love to call out individual cast members, but no program was issued. However, I will say that the fearless young woman playing “Branson,” the ladies man at the center of events, was a riot and seemingly unshakable.
With an amusing opening act (an improv duo called “Dry Toast”) the show ran about an hour and fifteen minutes – which was just about perfect. Though the venue is charming, it may not have air conditioning. At least, it didn’t seem to last night. The ladies of “..Jane Austen” have a few more weeks of Thursday night shows at CIC, and then I’m sure they’ll be performing in other places around town. (Check out their lively facebook page for details and upcoming dates.)
Annie and I particularly enjoyed the evening, but really I don’t think you need an in-depth knowledge of Jane Austen and her work in order to appreciate the wackiness of the group.
**Side Note: Completely unrelated to the show, I headed to the theatre from work and arrived about a half-hour early. I had heard tell of Asado Coffee, supposedly a great little coffee and tea place next to the venue, and thought – perfect! I’ll get a coffee and read until it was showtime. Outside Asado was a chalkboard sign saying “Try our iced coffee!” and I was able to walk right in the door and up t the register to purchase said coffee. It wasn’t until after I had paid for my drink and sat down that I was informed they were actually closed for a private event. Had I seen a sign indicating this was the case (or, you know, had the door been locked or had someone mentioned it to me prior to my sitting down) I would have sought a resting place – and purchased coffee – elsewhere. So, coffee in hand, I went back outside and basically stood outside the theatre for 20 minutes. The coffee was good, but I won’t be heading back there. **