Carl’s Closed, at Live Bait Theater.
It’s being billed as “yet another long-form improv show.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. And, like the rather generic description, this workmanlike late-night offering does nothing to set itself apart from the horde of similar shows infesting this metropolis.
As directed by Noah Gregor-opoulos and Jim Carrane, this is a decidedly low-key, almost lethargic effort. Carl’s Closed begins with the five performers (including the two directors) spontaneously generating a story that’s supposed to sound autobiographical but seems patently phony. Then they embark on a series of interconnected improvised scenes that become increasingly intricate as the evening presses on toward morning. Well-focused but lackluster scenes on the night I attended included one about an alcoholic riding a CTA train with his pet bird, another about an agoraphobic hypochondriac wreaking havoc in a drugstore, and one about a father trying to use the CIA to investigate the activities of his daughter.
The performers are all technically proficient, especially Rebecca Weinberg, whose subtle humor triggers most of the sparse laughs. But there’s no spark of energy or genuine wit. Watching this show is rather like seeing highly skilled ice skaters going through the motions during rehearsal, withholding the energy they’ll need for the real performance. The show is dedicated to the affable former owner of At the Tracks, Carl Berman, who would occasionally host improv shows. If they were like this one, it’s no wonder that “Carl’s closed.” The wonder is that Carl stayed awake.