No theater has a more teen-aged audience than the L.A. Connection. This comedy-improv group's Sherman Oaks storefront is a hot spot on the Valley high-school social circuit--at least for that certain breed of teen-ager who wants something hipper (but no more expensive) than a night at the movies.
It's encouraging to see people of this age in a theater, in the era of MTV and VCRs. But problems also arise. One show began with whoops when the lights went out. Then, as an actor began to request audience suggestions with the words "Think of something . . . ," someone in the front row yelled, "Sex!" It was a fair sample of many of the audience contributions that followed.
In the face of such juvenility, what's an improviser to do? Nancy Van Anders applied some apt put-downs to the front-row offender the other night. More than most theater groups, though, improv troupes are at the mercy of their audiences. Despite talented casts, who are clearly beyond high school themselves, the L.A. Connection too often panders to the most sophomoric of its viewers.
It isn't just the repeated sexual references. Anything that might not be accessible to a typical teenager is discouraged. For example, when someone in the audience suggested naming a character "Gertrude Steinbeck"--which raised visions of a sketch in which Ma Joad meets Alice B. Toklas--the Connection actor who was soliciting suggestions scoffed and instead accepted the next one, "Gertrude Mackenzie."