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TBA Improv: A Warm Light in the Cold New England Winter

By Sam Manoogian

Section: Arts

February 2, 2018

You might not expect a dorm common area to be an effective stage for improv comedy, with plush armchairs scattered around in the limited open space. But once a stage space was cleared and the group came out to start the show, it was clear that TBA Improv was in their element performing in Ridgewood Commons. They were greeted by a full house—not only were all the seats filled, but people arriving home to Ridgewood hung out on the sidelines and in the balcony above the commons. TBA easily rose to the task and put on an excellent show of short scenes and audience-interactive games.

The clear stars of the show were the group’s two newest members, Anna Cass ’21 and Oliver Leeb ’21, who were featured in the majority of the group’s bits. The duo particularly shined in the opening game, in which an audience member was selected and made the prize of a “Bachelor”-esque contest between them. After giving some personal information of his interests, they were off, both trying their best to successfully woo him to their side. The chemistry between the newcomers was sometimes tentative, but overall, they worked very well together, albeit against each other. They were adept at cutting each other off at natural stopping points in their speech cadences to try to smear the other or endear the audience member with lofty promises of non-stop coding sessions and a full-sized picnic in their dorm. The pair projected confidence and a thoroughly developed rapport with each other that started the night on a high note.

Following this bit, the veterans took over the production and played a couple of improv games with prompts from the audience. Both games involved acting out short scenes based off emotions and objects taken from audience members. The first game involved one group and the second game included several groups with different prompts that transitioned between scenes using the last line said by the previous group. Although these games had their moments, the audience did not laugh as much at these performances as they had at what had come before; the transitions between scenes were mostly adroitly executed, but the individual bits seemed to run on after they had already run out of steam.

Nevertheless, the group came back strong in the next game, which involved audience members soliciting advice from good, bad, evil and robot personas of four of the actors. The questions ran the gamut of typical and outlandish college problems, such as not having a club meeting place, vomiting from Sodexo and being scammed with oregano instead of marijuana. The answers were equally colorful, ranging from boosting the self-esteem of a student who did not closely inspect the baggie to exacting murderous revenge on those who had wronged the audience member. Both veterans and newcomers alike weighed the moral options hilariously for some of the funniest moments of the night, although the puzzling robot persona never seemed to elicit more than some errant laughter from the crowd.

Other highlights of the night were the monologues and tap-in long form scenes. After telling stories based off of a one-word audience prompt, the entire ensemble used their responses to improvise scenes that members could swap in and out of with a tap on the shoulder. Some of the best scenes included two apathetic TAs attempting to calm down a physics student caught in the throes of a panic attack; a girl with an increasingly heavy New Jersey accent giving advice based on the Zodiac sign that month; and a hippie coven formed around desperate wishes for regular bathing schedules. These scenes were among the funniest of the night, the audience laughing uproariously along with the troupe members themselves as they tried to retain composure.
TBA did not disappoint, particularly the two new members who bowed for the audience at the show’s conclusion. The group’s chemistry and adeptness at scene transitions were hilarious to watch, and I believe that the only drawback to the location was that the laughter may have disturbed nearby Ridgewood residents. Just as the poster advertised, the show was a ray of sunshine in the bitter Massachusetts winter, and I would easily recommend seeing any TBA shows in the future.

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