SITCOM Most Satisfying of Boston's Improv Shows

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 you’d 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 America’s 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 evening’s 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 janitor’s 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 other’s 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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