JUSTICE IS SERVED, Grounded Theatre, at the Playground. One of the major problems–maybe the major problem–with improv today is that improvisers know way too much about what’s on TV and almost nothing about anything else. Justice Is Served is an improv-based show parodying a debased TV genre: the bogus court session, in which a real judge conducts mock trials involving low-stakes small-claims cases. The folks at the Grounded Theatre do a good job re-creating the look and feel of shows such as The People’s Court, Judge Judy, etc. And the fully improvised characters do seem remarkably like the small-minded riffraff who appear on these shows, suing landlords, tenants, and ex-lovers for remarkably small sums of money.

But the folks who make up this ensemble are going to have to work a lot harder–and learn a lot more about the world outside the box populi–if they hope to make 90 minutes of stage time entertaining. Everyone in the ensemble goes for the quick, TV-style visual gag–at one point Nicole Soltis pops out wearing a leopard-print cat suit and tells the judge her name is Kitty. But having made their silly joke, they’re at a loss as to what to do next. No one seems to know how to build a stageworthy character or how to use the admittedly restrictive format of a trial to tell an interesting story. Most frustrating of all, the actor who plays the fictional judge, John Anthony Schultz, appears to know so little about real-life court procedure that he lets opportunities to satirize the judicial system slip through his fingers.

–Jack Helbig