by John Stoltenberg
‘Tis the season for jolly laughter, and if you like humor that’s loopy, irreverent, quick-witted, and fresh, you’ll fit right in at Washington Improv Theater’s annual Seasonal Disorder. It’s all made up on the spot, so every performance is one night only. Which if you’re in the audience is a funny-bone bonanza but if you’re a morning-after reviewer is a bane. Nothing I saw and guffawed at will ever be seen on stage again.
Last night’s full house was revved and ready. There’s an avid fan base for WIT’s schtick; folks keep coming back for more. When the emcee, Education Director Jonathan Murphy, asked who was there for the first time, only a handful raised their hands. The black box space at Source was abuzz with millennial enthusiasm, abetted by a bit of booze (beer and wine are on offer in the lobby). WIT is more than a theater; it’s a night spot. And a deservedly trendy one at that.
WIT consists of six “company ensembles”—seasoned improv teams that play and perform together—plus thirteen troupes the program calls “special guests.” Having seen some from column A and some from column B, I honestly cannot tell the difference, except I know the one called iMusical makes up mini-musicals on the fly.
Each team has a nickname, and depending on which night you come, you’ll be treated to two or three. There’s a schedule where you can see which will perform which night. I saw an ensemble called King Bee and a special guest group called Improv Actually. As always beforehand, cast members ask the audience to shout out answers to seemingly random questions. The responses, however oddball, then inspire sketchlets and scenelets that weave together in a dizzying hilarity of quips and non sequiturs. If you’re a newbie and wouldn’t know one team from another, just go. Attending a WIT show is like spinning a wheel of fortune. Some notches on it pay off a bit better than others. But there are no booby prizes. Everyone’s a winner.
I last saw Seasonal Disorder two years ago and loved it:
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.
The lineup I saw last night I liked a lot.
The punchy players in King Bee (Megan Cummings, Mike Hendrix, Paul Hitlin, Eva Lewis, Dan Miller, Nancy Norman, John Windmueller) concocted a tale involving, among other audience suggestions, bathrooms, aliens, batteries, and Donald Trump, in a sketch made all the sillier for its utter illogic.
The cast of clowns in Improv Actually (Mike Hendrix, Bryan Jackson, Dana Malone, Dan Milliken, Richie Pepio, Jaci Pulice, Katie Rush, Macey Schiff, Kate Symes, Greg Tindale) bounced off an audience suggestion for a locale then spun an enjoyably tangled yarn loosely tethered to the Newseum.
Though there were many standout individual performances, the teams as a whole did not sync with quite the zany energy I recall from 2013. Also, the setup made the playing space seem cavernous, and the acting took place so far up stage that it sometimes wasn’t audible—and I was in the front row. None of this, however, dampened my overall enjoyment nor diminishes my estimation of WIT.
Laughter may be the best medicine but it’s also the gift that’s never out of season. Watching talented troupes keep on their toes in Washington Improv Theater shows, pirouetting from punch line to punch line, stepping on every crack, is always a one-of-a-kind gift that keeps on tickling.
So keep WIT on your wish list. And succumb to Seasonal Disorder.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 10 minutes, with no intermission.