J.T.S. Brown, Detonate Productions, at ImprovOlympic. The great thing about Chicago improv is the way the scene constantly renews itself. A few years ago a whole generation of young improvisers–the ones responsible for making long-form improv hip–moved to New York or LA, seeking fame or at least a regular paycheck. I thought long-form improv here would never recover. But as one generation passes, another rises to take its place.
J.T.S. Brown, a group founded by Mick Napier but now directed by Second City member Craig Cackowski, performs long-form improvisations at least as rich and resonant as any the Ed, Jazz Freddy, or Lois Kaz cohorts ever cooked up. The night I caught the show, J.T.S. Brown used the audience suggestion of “corn” as the jumping-off point for a playful hour-long piece that touched on many topics: loss, growing up, thwarted relationships, all the usual subjects improvisers consciously or unconsciously choose.
What made J.T.S. Brown special was how carefully they listened, building on one another’s work. Instead of going for the quick laugh, they created multidimensional characters and interesting situations that really pulled us in. Most impressive were the occasional cubist improvisations–sublime, dreamlike sequences created by two or more company members who literally repeated the same five or six lines of dialogue several times, changing the emphasis with each repetition. –Jack Helbig