The Antiques Improv Show

Brody Theatre, 1904 NW 27th, 224-0688 Fri-Sat 8 pm, $10 through Dec 21

The PBS series Antique Road Show has become popular thanks to a brilliantly simple premise: people are invited to have their antiques appraised for free by experts in the field. It's like reality TV for collectors, and so fun to watch it's almost dangerous for the Brody Theatre to try and parody it as they have done with Antiques Improv Show. No characters that the Brody actors come up with are going to compare to the actual characters that the show puts forth. And no fake appraisals that the Brody actors invent can compare to the real-life diatribes of the experts, which though less intentionally funny, are still funny, and also far more interesting because they are true.

That said, Antiques Improv Show is still a good time, thanks in large part to the dramatic structure of its source material, which translates perfectly to the improv stage. Just like Road Show, the audience members at Improv Show bring objects to be "appraised" by the two "experts." The two "appraisers" do exactly like the real-life appraisers, except that they make up the information for each object on the spot.

Unlike Road Show, the best part of Improv Show is not the appraisals themselves but the "tricks" the appraisers utilize to accentuate their stories. On the night I attended, for instance, appraiser Tom Johnson showed a series of "slides" of "paintings" from the Victorian Era, which the "snuff box" he was appraising came from. The rest of the cast ran out and "created" the slides while Tom explained them. It was hilarious and fascinating. Hilarious because Johnson is witty, and fascinating to see an improvised version of televised mixed media.

Thanks to its premise, the Improv Show has a narrative thrust that compels despite an ensemble that hasn't quite jelled yet. This aspect became increasingly evident in the show's second half, when the Road Show element concluded and an aimless free-for-all bout of improv ensued that was almost painfully unfunny. Without substance to back up its brilliant concept Improv Show is nothing but a gimmick. But it's a damn good gimmick, and hell, maybe the cast will tighten up a bit. JUSTIN SANDERS