Easy as swimming the English Channel

The Kihckercast Project

Improvised Theatre
Directed by Topping Haggerty
Freaks Local 413
413 West 44th St. (353-6703)
Non-union production (call for times)
Review by David Mackler

The oobr box scores don't work in the usual way when considering an improvisational troupe's performance. The script is developed in front of your eyes; the direction depends mostly on the give and take of the cast, and where they take each other. The actors performing under the name Kihckercast Project have the elements which make improvisation work - they're smart, funny, and they trust and support each other so they can (a) get out of the holes they dig themselves into, and (b) rise to high levels of inspiration. They are, in alphabetical order, David Chamberlain, Katina Corrao, Ian Gibbs, Topping Haggerty, Ben Jones, Nicole Mack, Tamra Malaga, and Julie Stainer.

Each performance, of course, will be different. At the performance seen, the starting-off point was "Siamese twins," but the "play" grew to include weddings, television stars, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was also clear that the actors didn't know where they were going until they got there. That's the appeal of improv, because neither does the audience. There is a very specific charge to watching the actors challenge themselves, drawing on resources and ideas in a split second. Overlapping dialogue is common (as tuned as they are to each other, they presumably cannot read minds) and part of the pleasure is watching them sort it all out.

The space known as Freaks 413 is a storefront with a raised platform in the corner. Costumes? Well, there was the lady in ochre, the man in navy (based on the colors of their shirts) but they were already individualized by look and type. (Set and costumes uncredited.) Haggerty is the listed director, but as each actor came up with a new idea then he or she temporarily took charge. Perhaps the directorial credit should more properly read Head Wrangler, or Cohesion Coordinator.

Sometimes the actors brought a scene to an end and the lights faded; sometimes the lights cued the actors ("Lighting Improviser" Erik Young). This caused one conflict when it seemed as if the actors were willing and able to go further, while the lighting was indicating finality. But the performers, bless them, didn't mutiny, they simply took over and did a flash-forward to "five years later."

OK, so some of the set-ups seemed pre-packaged (do they work the DMV into every performance?), and maybe some of the gimmicks are canned - there must be some patterns they follow to decide who will play what, or maybe Johnny Danger, Private Dick finds his way into each performance. Maybe the "Musical Improviser" (Jason Loughlin) will always work in Etta James's singing "At last . . ." every time a couple gets together. Perhaps a repeat visit to Kihckercast is in order. It will likely be worthwhile.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Set: N/A

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 David Mackler