Entertainment » Theatre

Twilight Zone Unscripted

by Michelle  Sandoval
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Sep 11, 2013
The Ensemble of Impro Theatre’s ’Twilight Zone UnScripted’ at the Falcon Theatre
The Ensemble of Impro Theatre’s ’Twilight Zone UnScripted’ at the Falcon Theatre  (Source:Dan O’Connor)

Many of us might not be aware that there is a portal to another dimension located in the middle of Burbank. Through September 29th, the Falcon Theatre presents Impro Theatre's "Twilight Zone Unscripted," a fully improvised four-act homage to the classic television show. The troupe, known for their various improv shows on popular pop culture themes, are now tackling the world of horror and science fiction, and the end result is a scary delight.

The production, now in its third season, is co-directed by Jo McGinley and Stephen Kearin. Together they lead a group of talented actors through the unexplored domain that is "The Twilight Zone." Each show is distinctly unique, which means if you find yourself longing for more episodes, you can attend another performance without the risk of watching re-runs. The actors leave it entirely up to the audience to call the shots, and we are encouraged to get as creative as possible.

The skits, or episodes, I experienced varied vastly in theme and topic. While some were stronger and more memorable than others, all accomplished their finite goal -- to illicit laughter in the true bizarre style of the iconic series.

During this particular performance, the audience was introduced to a divorce lawyer with quite extraordinary methods, and it was soon explained, by one of the actors (trying to keep a straight face), that he did indeed "pass his bar exam in the Twilight Zone." We traveled back to the Stone Age where two cavemen discover the first woman and then receive a harsh lesson about love and acceptance, something both sexes still struggle with today.

When we suggested a skit about spiders, the actors created a group therapy session for individuals suffering from arachnophobia that ends with everyone on stage turning into the things they fear the most. Watching the actors flailing their limbs as they channeled their inner arachnids was one of the most memorable moments of the night, which can be attested to the roaring laughter from the crowd. Also on the schedule of our mini episode marathon was a skit about a haunted elevator in an old hotel, but while this plot seemed the most promising based on the strong possibilities of the theme, it seemed the least favored of the four.

Watching the actors flailing their limbs as they channeled their inner arachnids was one of the most memorable moments of the night, which can be attested to the roaring laughter from the crowd.

In keeping true to the original style of the source and material, the stage is simply set with four translucent panels and four metal chairs. The actors are dressed in only black and grey invoking the feel of the classic black and white series. This left it up to the actors to fill the stage with the liveliness and color it lacked, which they accomplished effortlessly.

The Impro Theatre ensemble is made up of 15 actors, although only a handful of them took part in this particular show. Improvisational theatre is most successful when the players are quick on their toes and are not afraid to take chances. Exceptional teamwork is also a big factor, and this talented group excels at all of these requirements.

An immediate standout was Nick Massouh, whose excellent performance as a disgruntled husband in the first skit set the stage for the rest of the night. His characters embodied the classic actors from the vintage series and everything, from his voice to his mannerisms, seemed plucked from the original episodes almost to an eerily perfection.

Brian Michael Jones, unfortunately missing from the first two skits, shone in the second act. He was simply hilarious and managed to steal almost every scene he was in. His portrayal of a clueless caveman in the final act was brilliant.

Jo McGinley, aside from directing the stellar show, also stepped onto the stage and was phenomenal in every role. Finding it very hard to keep a straight face at times made her all the more charming and you couldn't help but laugh along with her. It was obvious she threw her complete self into the production, putting as much heart and effort into her acting roles as her dedicated directing duties.

The entire cast was truly great; after all, an improv group cannot be successful unless they work as a unified team. The Impro Theatre ensemble plays off each other's strengths, and you quickly learn that the best material of the night will happen when they put each other on the spot. They are both absurd and profound, and how they manage to create such hilarious perfection on stage is perhaps the most unfathomable mystery of the night.

"Twilight Zone Unscripted" runs through Sept. 29 at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank. For information or tickets, call 818-955-8101 or visit www.FalconTheatre.com.

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