Saturday night improv with The Denials (a review)

The crowd seemed to be in fantastic spirits for the Saturday night improv night Jan. 30 at Overtime Theater in Southtown.

The theater’s run of "The Hard Bargain" ended earlier in the evening, to great success, and the remaining audience members, as well as crew, ambled around the small but cozy lobby prior to the improv event.

Although the admission is usually $8 with proceeds going to Overtime Theater Capital Fund, on Jan. 30, the show was free, and food and drink were available for a donation.

"The more you drink the funnier it is!” shouted out one of the actors as he rang a small cowbell in a less-than-serious attempt to rally the loungers from the comfort of the lobby.

Eventually, we all made our way into the theater, which seats a little more than 100 people, and were treated to a fast-paced and hilarious one hour performance by The Denials comedy troupe.

The premise of the improv show is a simple but effective one. The cancelled television show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" is an obvious reference point, which can be seen today on DVD and online.

The Denials, whose numbers vary from week to week, play games that involve acting out scenes and scenarios as suggested by the audience. And very much like "Whose Line's" Drew Carey, a mediator announces the game, the rules and also takes the suggestions from the audience members (What’s something you find in the basement? What is a job you would hate to do?).

They can also end a game if there’s too much of a lull in the humor.

A major part of the humor in an improv show is the audience participation -- the being there as it happens. For instance, in the game “Pillars,” two actors and two volunteers from the audience are onstage. Acting out a scene as suggested by audience members, the actors touch the volunteers on the shoulder to complete their dialog, often to hilarious results.

Whether you volunteer to be on stage or shout out suggestions or just stay in your seat, it is the thing as a whole that made hat night's show so hilarious. It would be unfair to dissect each individual game that was played, and difficult to describe the rules in print, but I will say that The Denials were energetic and quick on their feet. Personally, I thought they were even funnier when a player bombed a joke or was steered into acting out a ludicrous situation; how could you not laugh at someone giving an imaginary orangutan CPR?

The show is relatively clean, besides the occasional innuendo. And although the troupe does seem to stray from crass and vulgar humor, some language may be used. However, that night's show did seem to veer towards bad taste during an impromptu joke session about immigrants, but that portion was quickly ended before it became too, well, uncomfortable.

Regardless of the evening’s slight detour, the improv show with The Denials is highly recommended. Instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money on a first-run movie, or watching rented DVDs on a Saturday night, you can get out and get a taste of the local theatre in a manner that is less costly and more interactive and fun. And since the hour-long show starts at 10 p.m., it is the perfect way to start your Saturday evening on a lighthearted note.

For more information on the Saturday night improv with The Denials, visit www.theovertimetheater.net. Also check out Overtime Theater on Twitter and Facebook.