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Comedy Wed May 04 2011

Review: Improvised Jane Austen @ The Playground

Improvised Jane Austen - Photo - CIF 2011.JPG

The women of Improvised Jane Austen: Kate Parker, Mel Evans, Colleen Breen, Kyna Lenhof,
Sarah Beckman Mobley, Natalie Tinaglia, Rachel Grandi, Kristen Parise, Annie Rijks, and Steph Jones.

As part of the 14th annual Chicago Improv Festival, Chicago's very own Improvised Jane Austen did their thing last Saturday at The Playground (3209 N. Halsted). All I knew of the troupe was their name, and the fact that they'd be appearing alongside the NYC troupe Hell Buffalo. As an adopted Chicagoan, (I've lived here almost 20 years, which I'm pretty sure gives me Official Native Status), improv comedy is as natural a form of entertainment to me as hot dogs are a form of protein and snow is a form of weather. Still, improv has always been a kind of nursery rhyme gamble: when it's good it's very, very good; and when it's bad, it's horrid. I figured that the chances that IJA would pay off were decent since they'd made it into the CIF lineup; I'm glad I took that gamble.

The ten woman company manages to deftly and hilariously improvise any suggestion from the audience into a 30-45 minute spoof of a Jane Austen novel (the night I saw them the audience suggestion was "beer.") There are so many things that are great about them, here are just a few:

1. They're hilarious.

2. They weave in and out of "drag", taking on male personas as easily and convincingly as female personas, which caused me to have some deep thoughts about women in comedy -- specifically, that some of my all-time favorite comedians are men who cross-dress to impress (i.e. Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, and Little Britain), and maybe I just don't get out enough but I can't think of a time that I've seen an all-female cast of comedic actors take on the reverse. IJA made it seem like the easiest, funniest thing in the world to pretend to be a man.

3. In the entire universe of improv possibilities, they've narrowed their focus to scenarios that might have come from Jane Austen, which increases the humor quotient instead of limiting it, in the way that narrowing your choices of career -- by say, deciding to become a CPA, increases your chances of being good at your job because you're not floundering through various job titles trying to make something work.

But don't take my word for it: Improvised Jane Austen perform at The Playground Saturdays at 8pm through May 28th. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online, at The Playground box office, or by calling 773-871-3793.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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