Review: Needs Improvment

Senior Simon Grossman (center) performs during the Needs Improvment show on Jan. 10 in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium. The performers incorporated light-hearted humor throughout the interactive games and activities.

CHARLOTTE DRESSER/SAGAMORE STAFF

Senior Simon Grossman (center) performs during the Needs Improvment show on Jan. 10 in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium. The performers incorporated light-hearted humor throughout the interactive games and activities.

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Only in improv can you sing a song about a dead cat, act out a party in Pete Buttigieg’s wine cellar or perform an autopsy on a living person.
A fast-paced and hilarious performance by the Needs Improvment class on Friday, Jan. 10 in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium sent the audience into fits of laughter. Taught and directed by drama teacher Mark VanDerzee, these witty juniors and seniors participated in many entertaining improvisation activities and games, all of which kept the performers on their toes.
The show kicked off with a skit revolving around a “things you never hear in…” concept with the audience recommending places for the group to act out. For example, for “things you never hear in the school lunchline,” senior Simon Grossman suggested, “Yes! Mystery meat today!” while someone else said “that’s a you problem” for “things you never hear in therapy.” These impressive actors were able to come up with amusing answers on the spot that made the audience burst into laughter.
In another funny game called time bomb, a group of three, senior Naomi Mirny, junior Din Klein and junior Eric Traub, had to act out the same scene (Klein having to admit she got pregnant at Bible Camp) six times. But the twist was that the time they were to act out the scene but cut in half every time, so by the sixth time, they only had two seconds to perform the scene. A jumble of “Baby! God! Bible! Pregnant!” spilled out of the actors’ mouths in the two seconds they had to perform the scene. Even though they only had limited time, they still, remarkably, got the point across to the audience.
Maybe even more impressive was their ability to flawlessly carry out an improv activity that they had never tried before. The audience suggested a scene, “slow-dancing at a bar mitzvah,” as VanDerzee shouted out different genres of movies or TV shows so the actors could change how they were performing to fit the given genre. It was incredibly funny to see the same scene change seamlessly from a nature documentary, in which the actions of the slow-dancers were being narrated in a David Attenborough-like voice, to a soap opera with a lot of exaggerated drama and fingers being pointed.
Another activity that especially highlighted the compatibility and teamwork of the group was when three groups of two created a song about dead pets (an audience-chosen topic), with one group choosing the title, another doing the “instrumental” part of the song and the third coming up with on-the-spot lyrics. The impeccable coordination of this group was very impressive, for they created understandable songs about dogs going to “the meadow across the river” and cat cemeteries.
To close out the show, the whole group played a game of God where all of the actors perform a scene and one “God” can pause the scene at one point to control or change it however they want. The scene went from a pun convention to a female poet strip club. While things got a little political at one point, the actors kept the scene lighthearted and funny the whole way through.
The sheer creativity and humor that came out of this show were remarkable, not to mention how cohesive the actors were, even when they were performing on the spot. Even though the show was all over the place in terms of themes, you could still tell how grounded the cast was in their ability to act with each other as a whole.