LAND OF THE KARAOKING IMPROVISERS, Moctis, at the Playground. Usually, the more gimmicks improvisers use–masks, props, strange acting styles and conceits–the worse the show is. The exception was the Hyde Park-based troupe Sheila. For years they performed using the most annoying, cumbersome premise: moment by moment, they followed the dictates of a “giant wall of plot twists,” a large poster on which were tacked various directions. Yet they still created funny, energetic, highly entertaining shows.

Now the core members of Sheila–Edmund O’Brien, Patrick Brennan, and Dana O’Brien–are back, performing under the name Moctis with Mike Brumm in a new show based on another gimmick: karaoke. The show begins with the audience requesting a song, which one of the performers sings with all the hammy bravado of a seasoned karaoke addict. The group performs a series of scenes based on that number, and then the audience suggests a new song. And so it goes for about an hour.

Other, less seasoned improvisers would probably have made a hash of this format, but Moctis was able to turn out surprisingly rich scenes: their ratio of funny to unfunny bits was remarkably high. Even more impressive were their occasional serious character-based improvisations, as when Edmund O’Brien and Dana O’Brien (who are husband and wife) played a brother and sister on a surrealistically long train ride.

–Jack Helbig