IF…THEN…, ChicagoImprovAnarchy (CIA), at Strawdog Theatre

Company. The concept behind this late-night improv offering is fairly simple. The first scene–based on a location suggested by the audience–is interrupted when one of the characters faces a decision, at which point his or her “doppelganger” is introduced. The rest of the show follows the different courses of action taken by the “prime” character and the doppelganger.

On opening night the decision facing Maisie (Jennifer Messner) was whether to install a soft-serve machine in the ice cream parlor she’s opened with her friend Tom. The doppelganger Maisie (Jennifer McGee) goes for it gleefully, and the soft-serve choice becomes a metaphor for self-serving as Maisie becomes entangled in a gangland romance and turns her back on both her business partner and her heroin-addicted brother. Meanwhile the prime Maisie tries haplessly to do the right thing.

Neither performer had confident control of her character, however, so the differences between the two and the significance of their divergent roads never took on any shading. The supporting cast offered some solid work, particularly Glenn Fancher as the mobster and Tommy Taylor as a lovable lunk of a soft-serve machinist, ill served by both Maisies. But as a whole the ensemble needs to get more comfortable with the show’s concept.