The second “Needs Improvment” show of the year enthralls audience with lighthearted humor

The Brookline Friends of Performing Arts (FOPA) hosted the second “Needs Improvment” show this year on Jan. 13. The event served as a comedic and enlightening show for the audience, while simultaneosuly helping the greater Brookline community by hosting a food drive for the Brookline Food Pantry.

As 11 students in the upper-level drama class “Needs Improvment” emerged on stage, a hush fell over the 22 Tappan theater. This was one of the rare moments of silence from the audience, as they were soon erupting into laughter after almost every word throughout the night.

The Brookline Friends of Performing Arts (FOPA) hosted the second “Needs Improvment” show this year that took place in the 22 Tappan theater at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13. The event served as a “foodraiser,” hosting a drive for the Brookline Food Pantry (BFP). To promote the BFP, the admissions fees were reduced for patrons who donated a non-perishable food item.

Scenes varied in length, including both “short-form” scenes, ranging from 10 seconds to two minutes in length, and “mid-form” scenes, ranging from eight to nine minutes. Consisting of 11 students improvising in random groups, the entire performance was successful in terms of entertainment and making us grin almost every second. For the approximately hour-long show, we were completely free of any external stressors and enthralled by the actors’ ability to perform on the spot.

Throughout the performance, scenes where actors were positioned in a line and individually stepped forward were our personal favorites because of the originality of the responses, allowing audience members to each resonate with the perspectives of one actor. We were both entertained and sometimes surprised by the results in “World’s Worst,” where audience members suggested occupations for the actors to be the “world’s worst” at, such as “world’s worst serial killer” and “world’s worst fishmonger.”

We felt like we were peeking into the minds of each actor as they spoke after stepping out of line in “Things You Would Never Hear.” In the scene, actors, prompted by audience suggestions, seemed to draw from their personal experiences in speaking about what they would never hear in different locations. One place suggestion was “bus stop,” and junior Griffin Schroeder stepped forward, responding “Oh, it’s right on time!”

For “Three Headed Expert,” we were particularly impressed when we learned the actors were also hearing the scene’s parameters for the first time live, at the same time as the audience. Senior Hazem Algendy stepped up to host a “talk show on baking cookies.” In this makeshift talk show, seniors Agnes Shales and Yael Sheffer and junior Ian Hansen all took turns impersonating one quite snarky individual. Despite a lack of preparation time, Shales, Sheffer and Hansen managed to form one cohesive character, with each of their facial expressions complementing the others’.

Seniors Maya Shavit and Maya Pontes performed in “First Line Last Line,” in which Pontes was given a line to start off with and Shavit a line to close the scene with. While each did not know the other’s closing or starting line, we knew both and were eagerly awaiting the connection that would be formed. Pontes captured us with their portrayal of an archetypical father constantly repeating, “When we was your age…” and imposing unwanted advice on their teenage children. The scene finished as Shavit capitalized on her opportunity to use the last line and end the scene by saying, “This is the last line you’ve crossed for the last time.”

The penultimate performance was called “Sound Effects” featuring Algendy and junior John Watson. The two actors had to perform based on the prompt “in an elevator with your ex-lover” with Sheffer and Hansen creating sound effects for each actor’s movements. In one scene, Watson bent down and Hansen made a flatulence sound, making us chuckle. In the last couple of seconds, Watson surprised us and even fellow actors by capriciously bringing Pontes into the scene to make Hansen jealous.

“Sound Effects” was our favorite because of the creativity enforced amongst the actors. Not only was there the humorous storyline, but there was also an absence of communication and expectancy present between Algendy and Watson, with Sheffer and Hansen, and us, the audience.

In the last scene, the show invited the audience to participate more directly, as the group called audience member Sam to join the 11 on the theater floor for Shales to interview. After sending Sam back to their seat, Shales impersonated Sam sleeping, and all actors animatedly sprung into the scene as a part of Sam’s dream. With Shales curled over in devastated tears at the end of the scene, tears of laughter practically rolled off our faces.

The “Needs Improvment” performance encapsulated various forms of humor suited for all audience members. Before stepping into the 22 Tappan theater, we had never experienced improvisational theater in our lives, nor expected the amount of fun we had attending. It is safe to say that “Needs Improvment” was a performance we truly recommend and we look forward to the next one.