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Review: 'Twilight Zone Unscripted' finds humor in shadow worlds

September 18, 2012|By F. Kathleen Foley
  • The Impro Theatre Company presents alternating performances of "Twilight Zone Unscripted" and "Chekhov Unscripted" at the Odyssey.
The Impro Theatre Company presents alternating performances of "Twilight… (Enci )

Masters of evanescence, the performers at Impro Theatre assemble the theatrical equivalents of sand sculptures. Their shows are seen for one night only, never to be repeated. 

Unlike the Groundlings, whose main-stage shows are largely scripted, the veteran Impro company practices improvisation in its purest and most organic form, exhaustively researching its current subject in the rehearsal process but performing solely on the basis of audience suggestions, without any set script.  Impro’s most recent offering, “Twilight Zone Unscripted,” runs alternately with “Chekhov Unscripted” at the Odyssey Theatre.  A mix-and-match ensemble of 14 alternates in both shows.

Rod Serling's vintage “Twilight Zone” series provides ample material for the campy sendups that are Impro’s stock in trade. Performing in the different “episodes” that constitute the entertainment, the performers are uniformly professional, comfortable in their skins and with one another. Granted, there are a few deer-in-the-headlights moments when invention pales and the patter flags. For the most part, however, the proceedings are mind-bogglingly smooth.

Stephen Kearin and Jo McGinley, who also performed on the night in question, are credited as directors, but this is clearly a team effort by all involved.  Antic and lithe, Kearin is a particular standout, as is Brian Michael Jones, whose deceptively quiet style could be described as slapstick Method. Brian Lohman is also terrific, particularly as a rabbi whose quasi-profound utterances seem pulled straight out of his yarmulke.

The show’s amazingly deft sound and lighting improvisers, an intrepid crew of four that also varies nightly, create spur-of-the-moment effects that are crucial to the fun.

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“Twilight Zone Unscripted,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (running alternately with “Chekhov Unscripted”).  Ends Nov. 4.  $25 and $30.  (310) 477-2055.  www.OdysseyTheatre.com.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

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