LA TIMES MAGAZINE
Reviewed by: Annie Gilbar, Editor-in-Chief (Letter from the Editor, pg. 8 )
November 30, 2008
YOU GOTTA GO
One of the funniest evenings in town is tucked away in a little theater on Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s quite unbelievable, actually—as you sit there expecting “theater”, suddenly two random suggestions come from the audience, and an amazing comedy troupe spins an entire play into comedy gold right before your eyes. It’s called Jane Austen Unscripted, a stunning feat of performance and literary wizardry. And incidentally, it’s hilarious. I promise you, this brainchild of English stand-up and actor Paul Rogan and Impro Theatre’s artistic director Dan O’Connor is magic. Through December 21.
LA WEEKLY – GO
Reviewed By: Steven Leigh Morris
Oh, what fun to see an improv troupe create a two act drama in the style of a Jane Austen novel, inspired on the night I attended by the audience suggestion “snails.” The show is never the same, though director Dan O’Connor did say the company has rehearsed an English country dance that sometimes gets plugged in, sometimes not. And there are of course constant characters whom the company switch in and out of, depending on who’s available on any given night. O’Connor portrayed Mr. Dawson on the night this show was reviewed, a highly reputable fellow engaged in a snarky and pointless dispute with one Miss Amelia Green (the charming Jo McGinley) Much of the plot concerned the ability of these two porcupines to find love – in a Regency English style no less, encumbered by tightly fitting corsets, vests, dinner jackets and ties. Among the moments of high tension was when Amelia’s father (Floyd Van Buskirk) found the prickly lovebirds unescorted in a parlor room, sparking a scandal. There were also gorgeous cameos by Stephen Kearin as the genteel, horse-faced Mr. Robert Walker, and by Lauren Lewis as Amelia’s delightfully bird-brained sister, Rebecca. Eleven first rate comedians performed the night the show was reviewed; somebody hadn’t turned their cell phone all the way off, triggering a whining sound over the speakers, and causing a spontaneous subplot about a swarm of invading bees, and some controversy over whether or not it was decent of Mr. Walker to cure Rebecca’s bee sting by slopping mud on her bare arm. Aside from its breathtaking wit, the show reveals the codes of behavior that accrue into a acting style, and even a social style. This is a comedy about essence rather than substance, revealing how one is so often confused with the other. If there is such a thing as humane comedy, this would be it.
Reviewed By: Jennifer Fordyce
At the eastern end of a row of small theatres along Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood is where Jane Austen Unscripted is being performed at the quaint Theatre Asylum presented by Impro Theatre and C.A.F.E. (Combined Art Form Entertainment). The warm hue of vanity lights warms the waiting area as patrons enter and are greeted by an inviting array of delectable ‘authentic’ Jane Austen pastries lovingly homemade by Improv Theatre Group’s own Lauren Lewis taking us back by way of our taste buds to 19th century England. Classical violin and piano music permeates the theatre as patrons eagerly wait behind a black curtain leading to the 80-seat theatre within.
As actors parade in wearing wonderfully costumed attire, actress Tracy Burns addresses the
audience requesting a topic of conversation to start off the play. ‘Gloves!’ blurts out a patron and before we know it, a brand new Jane Austen inspired play is being created, without a script and completely improvised as actors carefully craft their next move leaving the audience on the edge of their seat watching intently as the story unfolds.
Director Dan O’Connor and Paul Rogan have guided this talented group of actors to a performance that is not only at the heart of what theatre is all about but a living example of creativity in the making. Paul Rogan’s talents glimmered as he seamlessly incorporated Nick Massouh character Harris’s reference to ‘R&R’, a modern slang much ahead of the time of 19th century England, into a comical interchange. Even the confusion of having two characters named Emily is wittily addressed while an occasional misplaced name adds to the comedy of the performance as a whole.
By the end of the play, the audience has experienced a brand new story in the likes of Jane Austen complete with hearts being broken, secrets being revealed and true love, which is magically resolved as the play comes to a close. But what Jane Austen Unscripted also gives the audience is this unique one-of-a-kind performance that can never be repeated in quite the same way, much like falling in love for the first time and ‘wishing to be a cloud’ in the sky of their beloved. One thing that is for certain is the continued success of this outstanding group of actors and something absolutely not to be missed no matter who is ahead at the election poles!
Jane Austen Unscripted continues through November 16th at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., in Los Angeles.
SAN DIEGO NEWS NETWORK
Reviewed By: Pat Launer
May 20, 2009
… Jane-Mania: True improvisation is incredibly difficult. And often not as funny as it should be. Satirizing a satirist is especially tricky. But these concerns are obliterated by the mega-talented Impro Theatre. Accent on the “pro.” This group is terrific. Last month, members of the L.A.-based comedy/improv troupe came to North Coast Repertory Theatre to present “Tennessee Williams UnScripted.” This week, they returned to target another literary icon, in “Jane Austen UnScripted,” a hilarious riff on the beloved English novelist’s weepy, love-besotted women and brooding or stuffily romantic men. Eight actors, in period dress (more or less) took us back to Regency England, and vowed that everything we were seeing was completely made up on the spot. There are no set characters, they averred, and they’d only seen the set (a mid-20th century Old World arrangement for “Old Wicked Songs”) several hours before, so they were just figuring out how to navigate it, which turned out to include, in delightful ways, both the settee and the grand piano. Before they launched into Austen, they requested an audience suggestion for “a trivial topic of conversation.” What came up was “fox hunting.” (where is that San Diegan having conversations?). So foxes popped up in the dialogue repeatedly, in the most amusing ways. Besides being attuned to the English accents, they were splendidly in tune with each other, riffing on a casual remark and spinning it into comic gold. Even the awkward silences or overstepped lines were made comical. There was a simply choreographed quadrille (obviously pre-planned, as were some other plot-points), and of course, everyone wound up with a mate. The sold-out crowd ate it all up – and why not? It was a delectably smart, tasty treat. I’m anxious to see the group again, when they return to NCRT on July 20 with “Shakespeare UnScripted.” But if you can’t wait till then, Impro Theatre is performing “Tennessee Williams UnScripted” right now, in Santa Monica (Friday-Sunday nights at Theatre Asylum, through 5/31).