Review: Needs Improvment Final Showcase

Leon Yang, Sports Writing Editor


The cast of Needs Improvment acts in their Final Showcase. Photo by Claudia Hermano.
The cast of Needs Improvment acts in their Final Showcase. The show, despite not having intricate props or even rehearsed lines, was hilarious and exhilarating. Photo by Claudia Hermano

A majority of theatergoers like to watch performances where actors adhere to a specific script. The quality of a show is often calibrated by determining how well the actors accurately portray the character assigned to them. However, on May 1, at the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium, Needs Improvment demonstrated in their fourth show of the year that some of the greatest drama performances come from the unexpected and imaginative power of improvisation.

As a preamble to the show, the group lined up on stage and broke into chanting; each performer made a thundering statement while a shout of “Improv!” reverberated from the others. Drama director Mark Vanderzee then asked junior Gabe Doyle about what he hates. Doyle answered, and then other members of the group came forward, stating something that they hated but which also connected to the previous statement voiced. All this provided an upbeat introduction to the many acts to follow.

The first “game” that was played dealt with employees late to work. Junior Matthew Morgan, the employee, left the auditorium as the audience was asked to provide suggestions to what incident prompted him to be late, who saved him from his situation, and how he was able to get to work on time. This interaction with the audience created a casual ambience that was pervasive throughout the whole show, as actor and audience were connected by the creation of the scenes.

The audience determined that Morgan had been lost in a tsunami, was saved by Monica Lewinsky and able to get to work riding a jackalope. Morgan, unbeknownst of how he was late to work, then returned and attempted to ascertain his situation through the charade-esque acting of junior Rosa Stern Pait and senior Kaitlynd Collins, whose dramatic gestures were extremely funny. This epitomized the hilarious comedy that was put on display during the whole show.

Senior Kaitlynd Collins performs in the Needs Improvment show on May 1. Photo by Claudia Hermano
Senior Kaitlynd Collins performs in the Needs Improvment show on May 1. Photo by Claudia Hermano

The next game was called “Pan Right” in which Doyle, juniors Sophia Pouzyrev and Rianna Cranberg, and senior Finn McMillan were each given a word ranging from “spongebob” to “hemorrhoid.” There were situated in a square, and one corner was given the “hot seat.” VanDerzee “panned” the performers left and right; the person in the hot seat and the person to their left then enacted a scene using the word they were given. Great humor ensued as pairs of the group went down various creative avenues.

The group played many more drama games, perhaps most notably when they broke into four groups in competition. Each group performed a skit based on the theme of “Uptown Funk.” After each round, the audience decided which group to eliminate by cheering for them the most, which VanDerzee noted as “ironically beautiful.”

The winning skit was performed by a group consisting of McMillan, Collins and senior Robert Mast. They presented a skit of a rejuvenated Michelle Preiffer (acted by Collins), who played Catwoman in “Batman Returns.” Preiffer established herself in the skit as a powerful female character over Ben Affleck (acted by Mast) in a new Batman movie. The “movie” was directed by McMillan, which features Preiffer saving Iran. Again, the comedic imagination of the actors was on full display, and the audience was greatly delighted with it.

All of the activities of the show culminated in the final act, which featured all members of the group. The group acted out a climatic event and the events leading up to it. A suggestion from a person in the audience established the event as “the rejection of the fluffernutter as the official Massachusetts sandwich.”

The group members then broke up into different units once again. A group consisting of Doyle and Mast acted out politicians intent on granting the fluffernutter as the official sandwich of Massachusetts, though one of them was allergic to peanuts, while another group including Collins, Morgan, and Cranberg vouched for vegans, and advocated for a tofu sandwich. Through some wild twists and turns, it was determined that a sandwich of throw-up and clam chowder would be the official sandwich of the state. This ended a spectacular and exhilarating show of eccentric unfoldings and improvisational genius.

Needs Improvment harnessed the power of the human imagination. The inventive and humorous performances of the group demonstrated that a script is not necessary in order to develop an exceptional show. Neither are props or a magnificent set. Clearly, this performance did not need much improvement, as it took full advantage of the creativity inherent in all of us.

Leon Yang can be contacted at [email protected]