Los Angeles Theater Review: TWILIGHT ZONE UNSCRIPTED (Falcon Theatre in Burbank)

by Jason Rohrer on September 15, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

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THE KEY OF IMAGINATION

Many an actor, writer, and director settles for professionalism.  To get it up there and know your lines, to raise a question or resolve a story, to light the performers and make them audible: this seems enough.  And for some kinds of theater, journeyman Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of Twilight Zone UnScripted-Impro Theatre at Falcon Theatre in Burbankwork is completely adequate.

But watching Impro Theatre make up plays is like watching Cirque du Soleil perform acrobatics – a feat that expands the definition of human potential.  Last Saturday I watched four episodes of Twilight Zone UnScripted play out over a couple of hours, served by a team of seven.  The artists onstage used the mystery and wonder of Rod Serling’s seminal television program as a touchstone around which to consider the human condition.  Some of the moments were breathtaking.  Many were hilarious. Twenty minutes at a stretch had my body aching not with laughter but with physical investment.

Forget the astounding fact that these diverse worlds are made up on the spot.  Simply as theater, this company’s work is consistently as good as anything you can see.  There’s not a better company of actors in Los Angeles, and Impro’s playwrights rank with their best contemporaries.  They invent full stories with developed Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of Twilight Zone UnScripted-Impro Theatre at Falcon Theatre in Burbankconflicts, throughlines, character arcs, thematic devices, physical and intellectual motifs, suspense, irony, and immense compassion.  And they play them beautifully.

My favorite Impro pieces have been explored through the sensibilities of Chekhov and Austen (they interpret a host of styles including Noir and Tennessee Williams, both traveling to San Francisco in October).  Directors Jo McGinley and Stephen Kearin, who also perform in this show, take what might seem limited source material in Rod Serling and his stable of uptight midcentury doomsayers and make of it a transporting evening.  I appreciate the old TV show more for having had its elements so happily distilled by this rotating cast.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of Twilight Zone UnScripted-Impro Theatre at Falcon Theatre in BurbankAs far as I can tell, Ms. McGinley, Mr. Kearin, Edi Patterson, associate artistic director Brian Lohmann, and artistic director Dan O’Connor only have good nights. The same goes for a number of company members you might see, who weren’t scheduled on my night.  But everyone in my cast produced standout work.  Brian Michael Jones wisely and generously held off on an entrance to allow a scene to mature; Lauren Rose Lewis, in a glance, so fully invested a character with venom that I feared for the safety of her fellow cast members.  Michele Spears had the opportunity to play characters so diverse that for awhile I mistook her for two different people.  In the booth, Ian Gotler and Michael Becker told the story with lighting and sound improvisation appropriate to the situation and to Leigh Allen’s lighting design.  Sandra Burns’ deceptively neutral set and sleek, monochromatic costumes add immensely to the mood and texture of the proceedings.  Overall, the experience is so satisfying that I’m being ruined for most companies.  This Twilight Zone uses the key of imagination to unlock the future of theater.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of Twilight Zone UnScripted-Impro Theatre at Falcon Theatre in Burbankphotos courtesy of Impro Theatre

Twilight Zone UnScripted
Impro Theatre at Falcon Theatre in Burbank
scheduled to end on September 29, 2013
for tickets, call (818) 955-8101
or http://www.FalconTheatre.com

for future Impro Theatre dates and cities,
visit http://improtheatre.com/

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