The Armando Diaz Experience, Theatrical Movement & Hootenanny, ImprovOlympic.

Every time I think nothing new can be done with long-form improvisation, a show comes along to remind me just how inspired and entertaining pure improv can be when performed by the right people in the right circumstances. A year ago Second City’s Lois Kaz renewed my faith. And last week Improv-Olympic’s The Armando Diaz Experience did it again.

Of course we are talking about many of the same improvisers who made up Lois Kaz–David Koechner, Theresa Mulligan, Miriam Tolan, Brian Stack, Noah Gregoropoulos (who also directed Lois Kaz). Plus a few others–Jim Carrane, Matt Besser, Pete Zahradnick–who have shone in other shows.

Each step of the way–from Ed to Jazz Freddy to Lois Kaz to Armando Diaz–these performers have become sharper, smarter, and more self-assured, until now they can create with the subtlest gestures and the simplest bits of dialogue believable, funny characters in compelling situations: a shy girl in love with a loudmouth, a roommate mourning his dead friend, a son who’s too much like his father. The fully improvised two-act performance is molded around the likable ramblings of monologuist Armando Diaz, but it’s the pure improvisation that makes this show fly.