This time, when the lights go out on the cast on stage at the Adrienne Theater, it means the show is about to begin. Dark Comedy is Philly Improv Theater’s take on the famous Chicago improv format “the bat,” in which all of the improvising takes place in total darkness. The format allows the audience to use their imaginations along with the actors as the characters and scenes created by the performers on stage come to life in the brains of those in attendance. Think live action radio play all made up on the spot in front of your…ears.
The atmosphere and scene locations are set by the cast, who act as their own foley artists, providing sound effects and background noise for the world they create. In last night’s show, the audience suggestion of “autumn” sent the cast into a fury of whirling winds which organically evolved into the sounds of animals on a farm and a creaking gate. This inspired the first scene of a forgetful, paranoid wife, her angry husband, and their curious baby played hilariously by Brian Ratcliffe, Alan Williams, and Rachel Semigran. The second scene involved a wise, old Sushi chef (played by Andrew Stanton) and an eager young apprentice (Hillary Rae) chomping at the bit to learn the secrets of being a true master. The third scene featured three lumberjacks (Adam Siry, Shannon DeVido and Alan Kaufman) and their attempt to do their job while being confronted by conservationists.
The group weaved between scenes with scene painting sound effect transitions, giving the audience (and their fellow improvisors) a chance to picture the setting in their minds before the scene began. Each set of characters was revisited two more times, with increasing stakes, and hilarity.
The support the cast members show each other in their sound effect work makes Dark Comedy a fun and fulfilling experience. The scenes come to life thanks to the help of everyone in the cast filling in where your eyes cannot. Animals on the farm, knives cutting flesh, and zombies chomping brains all had the chance to be seen last night – if only in the imagination.
Dark Comedy plays once more on the main stage at the Adrienne Theater, this Saturday, at 1130pm. You can purchase tickets online.