For the third—and last 😢—day of the Stumptown Improv Festival, I decided to take the plunge and watch all three sets. And I’m glad I did because the drama of the night was in the earliest 7 pm show where BOTH MEMBERS of the Canadian duo Hip.Bang! were denied entrance at the US/Canadian border—leaving the fest a whole troupe short.
“But we’re improvisers,” Erin Jean O’Regan stressed—grinning widely—as she explained we’d be seeing a brand-new troupe—assembled on the spot—composed of: the Bloody Marys, Kristen Schier of Philadelphia's The Future, Ember Konopaki from the Vancouver, WA troupe Little Mountain, and, finally, Amy Shostak from Vancouver, BC and Laura Doorneweerd from Amsterdam (you know, in the Netherlands) who had been teaching Stumptown’s Local Ensemble troupe all week. All would be performing together for the first time as a brand new group aptly dubbed the Imports.
The Imports killed. They were energizing and unsettling, with members diving into scenes to be inanimate objects in the background—like a bonfire that flipped one person off but obeyed another. They segued from a wildfire roasting characters alive into evil spirits cursing a baby with mundane maladies like "being a shift manager at a Chipotle" or "allergies that are constantly changing." Kristen Schier stood out for her consistent creativity and exceptional monster-laugh. She made really me regret missing the Future on Thursday.
It's tempting to say the Imports stole the show, but the performances were so strong last night that they just held their own in a very good lineup. When Broke Gravy followed with their "Whatchu Wanna Know" style of personal narrative, it was great to see a group that clearly knows one another so well and can build off each other with confidence. The two performances paired in a very satisfying manner.
For the much-hyped Dasariski performance, Megan Burbank’s hopes of an end to floor-sitting were unfortunately dashed as chairs were added along the sides of the stage to try to accommodate everyone who wanted to see the revered LA trio. What surprised me about the Dasariski performance was the sheer number of phones that went off. There were no fewer than six phones that rang. I am led to conclude that Dasariski was a draw for either doctors or people new to improv who wanted to see the best, best group.
I'm not sure Dasariski lived up to the fanfare. The three created a complex plot that was almost movie-worthy—or telemovie-worthy—about dads nervously chaperoning at a sleepover where their daughters had been drinking stolen bourbon. They weren't particularly interesting as dads. Instead, the humor was found when the players switched it up and acted as their daughters because they continuously forgot whose daughter they were and who had what name—not to mention who had which dad—but these scenes were regrettably only 10 percent of the hour-long performance. I will say that Craig Cackowski has a charming gift for pantomiming the human body in flight.
Big Bang, a show I’d been eagerly anticipating, had a lot to live up to. And they were so funny I forgot to take notes. They're the only improv troupe I saw reference quinces this year in a bit where they paired quince jelly with a friend they were guiltily cannibalizing. Rachel Rosenthal was at the top of her game—per usual—performing an improvised song about people who can't play instruments but still hang them on their wall.
Three hours of improv is a lot. I was friggin' exhausted by the time Outside Dog hit the stage, but I rallied a little when the Yelp listing they chose to read—Outside Dog derives inspiration from one-star reviews—was for Salem's eccentric amusement park Enchanted Forest.
All night I’d been thinking on LA, which, despite its vaunted reputation for comedy, often produces humor I find too commonly reflects LA tropes—appearance-obsessed, shallow, mainstream. I was glad that Outside Dog brought out another side of LA I’d forgotten about—everyone who lives there is obsessed with movies. One of the most original jokes of the night came with Outside Dog’s sketch about couples on a cul du sac trying to outdo each other’s homemade amusement parks, which included one couple acquiring an Arquette—a fictionalized David Arquette, who’d just woken up from a coma.
I knew staying for the last show on the last night of the festival would involve clapping for all the volunteers and all the organizers that make such a cool event a reality. I didn't know it would mean sitting awkwardly in the audience as everyone on stage slow danced to Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road." But I didn't begrudge them that. They earned it. Thus concludes another year of Stumptown Improv Festival fun. The last night's energy and quality was so consistent that I will break apart my imaginary trophy for best performance among them all.
For our recaps of the 2017 Stumptown Improv Festival’s first two days:
• Day 1: Bloody Marys, Bigfoot, & Ghost Stories with Jed Arkley
• Day 2: Curious Comedy, the Right Now, and HVAC Snakes!