The Stumptown Improv Festival is back for its fourth year, and it's really coming into its own in its still-sorta-new location at Artists Repertory Theatre. Logistically, things seem to be flowing a lot better—the floor-sitting and overcrowded shows of past years are long gone, and absent one lighting hiccup (which didn't really matter, since improv is about working with what you've got) this festival is off to an excellent start.
The highlight of the show's opening performance came from Blood Marys, a Canadian duo featuring Kirsten Rasmussen and Leigh Cameron. (Improv/sketch comedy audience member pro-tip: Always see the Canadian duos, especially if they are women-only; they are usually the best.) Rasmussen and Cameron were especially skilled at carrying through their varied, bizarre storylines, which included an extended bit about ghosts and tapeworms, and Rasmussen, in a ~*haunted theater*~ scene, came up with what is arguably the best description of what a solo show really is—"There'll be a spotlight and I'll just talk."
Although my patience with the Brody Theater's drawn-out formats has waned over the years, Janet Scanlon and Katie Nguyen really shone during the theater's performance, which included tangents into grotesque German cooking shows and sex ed in the South, and was strongest when embracing the mundane or straight-up goofy rather than the topical.
Several members of closer Sunday Service didn't make it past the border (welcome to Trump's America, TAKE US WITH YOU CANADIANS PLEASE), but even in a reduced capacity, they had some good moments, including a vaguely French Bigfoot encounter and a sexy drill sergeant situation that brought out some of the silliest physical comedy I've ever seen in performers Taz Van Rassel and Ryan Beil.
But my favorite part of the evening was hands-down when the lights went out so the crew could work on a technical problem, and fest co-organizer Jed Arkley filled what would otherwise have been dead time by telling everyone a scary story. Um, can Jed Arkley just tell weird, half-laughed stories about death and terror ALL THE TIME? There's a comedy podcast I'd actually listen to.
I was wilting from the heat, so I had to skip the late show that came after, but the festival continues tonight and tomorrow, and there are still a ton of groups to see doing their improv thing. The Mercury's Suzette Smith will be covering those performances. Stay tuned.