by John Stoltenberg
(This review was written for DCMetroTheaterArts and is reprinted here.)
Washington Improv Theater has been tickling DC audiences for 15 years. When I discovered the madcap company a while ago, I got hooked on the spot. Hooked as in addicted. Feeling the need for a giddy-fix, I checked out WIT’s current offering, Seasonal Disorder (at Source through December 28). Did you know laughing can get you high?
Like all WIT’s totally unscripted impromptu entertainments, the show I saw happened one night only, to the delight solely of the folks clever enough to be there at the time. Over the course of the evening, 22 performers working in four teams did a stint on stage, and each bunch was buoyantly introduced by Artistic Director Mark Chalfant. Twenty other teams are also in play for Seasonal Disorder; the lineup of three or four gets switched show by show. So not only are there singular treats and surprises packed inside each performance; the casts change completely as well. That these antics are ephemeral is half the fun.
The other half is that each team bounces off a suggestion from the audience and turns it into crackling fresh sketch comedy sometimes so wild and weird you can scarcely catch your breath between laughs. Teams have odd, insider-y names.
The one that opened the show I saw was “Mr. Meaner Wraps the Holidays”—Jon Chesebro, Charles St. Charles, Stacy Hayashi, Ami Krasner, Satish Pillalamarri, John Windmueller—who spun a ridiculous yarn in spontaneous rap while one of them beatboxed into a mic.
Next up, “The Train School Holiday Special”—Ceci De Robertis, Caroline Chen, Jason Mayer, JJ Jackson, Todd Menhinick, Cynthia Van Maanen, Bryan Hughes, and Daniel Brown, coached by Topher Bellavia—took the audience prompt “game show” around hilarious hairpin turns. “Holiday Party Crashing with Nox!”—Aaron Mosby, Brianna Lux, Chris Ulrich, Matt Winterhalter, Sean Paul Ellis, and Stacy Hayashi, coached by Rachel Grossman—bungee-jumped off the word “elf” into a silly surreal Santaland scene.
Last but not least, “Season Six”—Thomas Achilles, Joe Donnelly, Nick Greenough, Murphy McHugh, Charles St. Charles, and Abe Woycke, coached by Mikael Johnson—rejiggered an audience member’s recollection of an awkward holiday memory into inspired lunacy.
You had to be there.
At this time of year when there are enough earnest holiday-themed shows on the boards around town to bestir almost anyone’s inner Ebenezer Scrooge, the honestly earned belly laughs to be had on a crazy-cheap ticket to Seasonal Disorder are a priceless gift of loopy merriment.