Most improv shows involve energetic young actors demanding that the audience provide them with "a non-geographic location, please," to which the audience inevitably replies "LAUNDROMAT!". Then the cast asks for a subject, to which some drunk guy in the back row always yells, "MONICA LEWINSKY!!"
Director Topping Haggerty has found a way to avoid all of this. Her show Seeking Sexy, Sane and Single was an improv show that used personal ads for inspiration. The audience participation was still there, but no one was ever given the chance to scream, "JOEY BUTTAFUOCCO!!". Instead three members of the cast were chosen randomly (an audience member drew their names out of a hat). Audience members then drew clippings from real personal ads, which were assigned randomly to the three members of the cast, who took on the sex, race, and sexual preference of the person who posted the ad, then sought out their ideal mate among the rest of the cast.
Despite the clever personal-ads gimmick, Seeking... was essentially a variation on a "Harold" improv. For those unfamiliar with improv, "short form" improvisation utilizes a series of short self-contained improv games without telling a cohesive story, while long-form "Harolds" have revolving scenes with a common general theme, which all connect with one another by the end (or at least that's how it works when it's good).
The entire cast was obviously well-trained in improv (especially Michael T. Rose), which was a surprise, since good improv training is hard to find. They were also extremely versatile, with Amy Roeder and Becky Flaum taking on a multitude of characters -- both actresses used excellent dialects and voice work to differentiate their characters. The light-board operator also knew when scenes hit their peak, and faded out at just the right moments, avoiding any train wrecks.
Although Seeking...'s unique format gave the show more structure than the typical improv show, and prevented the audience from having to watch "LORRENA BOBBIT!!" at the "LAUNDROMAT!", it did create some new problems all its own. Since the personal ads were randomly assigned to the cast members, they resulted in characters whose race, gender, and sexual preference did not match the actors. Sometimes other performers would forget that they wee speaking to a man playing a lesbian, or a woman playing a straight man.
As is usually done with improv, the actors wore their own street clothes and didn't use any sort of costume or accessories. The set consisted of four black chairs, and no props were used at all; instead objects were mimed (also typical with long-form improv). Although the cast were well-trained, they occasionally failed to interpret each others mimes. Problems such as this were quickly resolved, though.
Sexy Sane and Single stood above most of its competitors in the improv world. With an original concept and an experienced cast that knew what they were doing, this was certainly something improv fans will appreciate.
(Also featuring Adam Bloom, Ana Carolina, Hugh Sinclair, Wayne Parillo, and Nicole Mack.)
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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby