From The Dorchester Reporter, Thursday, July 8, 1999.
Are you unamused by laugh tracks? Do you recoil from reruns?
If you get antsy with sit-at-home situation comedy, then perhaps youd enjoy a Thursday night out at the Back Alley Theater, where you the studio experience can collaborate with live performers in creating SITCOM, a send up of Americas most mindless form of entertainment.
SITCOM is an evening of long form improvised comedy where a talented troupe uses suggestions from the audience to develop the premise for two episodes of a half-hour situation comedy. In a twinkling they use brightly colored modular building blocks and huge sheets of paper to make a few sets. By evenings end, they have printed a special program with character descriptions and composed a closing theme song a la Everybody Knows Your Name from Cheers.
On a recent visit, the Inman Square-based troupe dreamed up back to back episodes of Sweep This -a janitors eye view of corporate back-stabbing and betrayal with characters like Kira, the kooky courier, and Mao Tse Tungsten, the Asian industrial secrets thief.
Using single words audience members have provided at the top of the show, the cast frequently interrupts the tangled comedy plotline for a cluster of zany ads. On one night audience suggestions included the predictably provocative ones like marshmallow and sushi, but the ensemble were not fazed by such intended stumpers as heliocentric and tortfeasor.
Truth to tell, both the audience and the actors are so much more alive and alert that the experience bears little resemblance to boob-tube watching. The individual cast members comic ingenuity is carefully balanced by their sensitivity to each others work.
Boston has a variety of good improvisational shows, but SITCOM is the most elaborate, elegant, and hence the most richly satisfying.
© 1999 Chris Harding, Dorchester Review
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