AN IMAGINARY DANCE OF THE FRAGMENTS, Hope and Nonthings Productions, at Strawdog Theatre Company. Best known to me for his work with the improv troupe Sheila, Ian Pierce (aka John Pierson) has a knack for creating interesting, eccentric, essentially likable characters. And these same weirdos and goofballs and crazies–a man who insists he’s a “bomb,” a street psychotic who can’t stop the music in his head–appear in Pierce’s dark, absurdist play, each one conveniently paired with an inquisitive, much less flamboyant listener: a fireman, a commuter.

But somehow the result isn’t the same in An Imaginary Dance of the Fragments as it was in Pierce’s improv. There just isn’t enough to his characters to hold our interest throughout an entire play, a fact Pierce tries to hide by tarting this one up with an eccentric nonlinear structure and lots of bogus Brechtian titles: the play is divided into three movements, “The Blackout Introductions,” “The Imaginary Blue Fuse,” and “The Connections.”

Improv can teach a performer a lot of things–timing, spontaneity, self-confidence, teamwork. But it can’t teach anyone how to write a fully scripted show. The instant characters, glib dialogue, and ephemeral, aimless storytelling that make improv charming are annoying in a play. Which is why great improvisers often write lousy dramas. Like this one.

–Jack Helbig