A Day in the Life, at the Playground. Who says improv has to produce laughs? More drama than comedy, this hour-long improvised one-act focuses on a different news event each week. The show I attended was a disconcertingly abstract, painfully human look at a multimillion-dollar scandal in which a Cleveland investment adviser bilked 25 clients over 15 years in a shell game that collapsed only for lack of fresh suckers.
The seven ensemble members depicted the perpetrator and assorted bystanders and victims with a care and precision markedly different from the usual frenzied, go-for-broke improv aesthetic, where scoring points counts for more than making them. Among other characters, the troupe portrayed a codger oblivious to his bankruptcy, an employee romantically attached to her nemesis, and a 17-year-old boy who bonds with the malefactor while he’s on a fishing trip. The performers displayed a shrewd feel for local color, character contrast, deliberate (if sometimes lethargic) pacing, and the minutiae of sponge baths in assisted-living hellholes and expense accounts.
True, they offered little about the mechanics of the fraud, let alone the motivation for it, and cracked one too many geezer jokes. But as directed by Cholley Kuhaneck, these folks tried really hard not to get stuck in stereotypes, actually taking the time to get real.