Chicago Improv Festival

Chicago Improv Festival 9

For the first time in years I have no official connection to the Chicago Improv Festival. Which means that I can give you my recommendations completely bias-free. Except that I’m friends with half the performers I’m about to recommend. Oh well.

Thursday, April 27

In the 7:30 pm slot at the Athenaeum Mainstage you can catch The Williamson Playboys, a Canadian duo who purport to be the world’s oldest father-son Cajun music duo. They’ve invented every musical genre of the last 100 years. The songs are funny and the banter is hilarious. The same show features Bassprov, who just sit and fish and talk. Their shows mix the weight of heady social topics with the minutiae of rural Indiana life. Bassprov will be joined by a special guest, MADtv’s Mo Collins.

At 9:00 pm in the Athenaeum Studio 1 is The Midnight Hell House. Midnight Hell House is a smirk-free recreation of a fundamentalist Christian Halloween “Hell House“. It’s over-the-top, but, frighteningly, not that over-the-top.

At the exact same time in Athenaeum Studio 2, there’s Play. I haven’t actually seen the show, but it’s a 2-act fully improvised play directed by Schadenfreude‘s Sandy Marshall and features some of Chicago’s finest improvisors.

Friday, April 28

Slap Happy, from Toronto, are some of the most consistently inventive improvisors I’ve ever seen. And they’ve slept on my couch. 7:30 pm, Athenaeum Mainstage.

Also in the haven’t-seen-them-but-heard-good-things category is Screwbuki, a production of Hawaii’s Loose Screws. They do an improvised kabuki which, I understand, is both very faithful to the actual art form and very playful and funny. 10:00 pm, Athenaeum Mainstage.

Pimprov is so wrong it’s right. Five pimps perform an improv show. They skewer improv cliches, other performers, pimps, and themselves. 11:00 pm

Saturday, April 29

Johnny Lunchpail do incredibly physical improvisation with whatever materials are at hand in the theater space. 9:00 pm, Athenaeum Studio 1.

imp. are also very physical — they perform wordless improvisation inspired by clowning and silent film comedy, with musical accompaniment. 10:00 pm, Athenaeum Mainstage.

Until they (finally) open their new space at 4840 N Broadway, this is one of the rare chances you have to see Chicago’s own groundbreakers, Annoyance Productions. On the same bill are JoKyR & Jesster, two guys from Utah with lots of energy. 11:00 pm, Athenaeum Studio 2.

They were just my hosts at the Phoenix Improv Festival, so I’d be remiss not to mention Galapagos, also at 11:00 pm, Athenaeum Studio 1.

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