DYING IS EASY, comedy is hard. If you have even a passing interest in theater, you've no doubt heard this, ad nauseam. But some things have staying power because they're true, and if comedy is hard, partially improvised comedy is even harder. It seems almost impossible to pull off, which is what makes Action/Adventure Theatre's serialized, sort-of improvised productions so fun to watch. Their latest, Sidekicks, directed by Pat Moran and Greta West (and starring former Mercury employee/forever Mercury friend Noah Dunham) launched last month in a continuation from last season; steel yourself for the season finale this weekend!
This season covers a bleak moment for our ragtag band of sidekicks, who, despite their always-a-bridesmaid syndrome, must join forces to vanquish evil in an increasingly corrupt
Portland New Cascadia. Sidekicks pushes the boundaries between theater, improvisation, and broad comedy. Since episode one, alliances have shifted, boyfriends have been murdered, babies have been put in the crosshairs, and unspeakable things have been done to French toast. I'll reiterate: It is hard work putting on a partially improvised show, and at times, that difficulty is a little too apparent in Sidekicks' pacing. Some transitions could be cleaner, and a few of the actors seemed to struggle with the improvised elements.
Don't be dissuaded by that. It's par for the course given the format, and the performances that are good are really good. Power- and Yoo-hoo-drunk, with some cannibal-adjacent tendencies and boundary issues, Jason Rouse as New Cascadia's mayor has been a cackling, godawful delight. And a cameo from David Saffert as Professor W., a remote-access villain in the grand, berobed tradition of Emperor Palpatine, is most welcome. Also endlessly entertaining? Nathan Ayling (N.A.T.E., a clone), Aubrey Jessen (telekinetic Diana York), and Zoe Rudman (Penelope Price, out for blood) as the most dysfunctional justice league in existence. Speaking of N.A.T.E., things weren't looking good for him at the end of last week's episode.
The suspense is real! And that's the brilliant thing about Action/Adventure shows: They're ridiculously—even frustratingly—spontaneous, but they always draw you back into the story before the episode's over.