This is not a review of the show Jane Austen Unscripted. It is a review of what happened on one evening of this totally improvised show. When you, gentle reader, attend the show, you will perchance see something completely different although rather similar in that it will probably have female relatives of middling birth, highborn and haughty gentlemen, and some silly old-fashioned dancing.
You will also laugh a lot because Jane Austen Unscripted by Impro Theatre is hilarious. It plays a bit like Jane Austen filtered through Monty Python (minus the rude humor). The improvised plays do not follow the storylines of any of Austen’s novels, but character types and situations from any of the novels may be mixed and matched.
On the rainy recent evening when this reviewer attended, the cast (at any given performance, one will see only eight or nine of the fifteen performers) asked the audience what topic they would like to have for the play’s opening conversation. Suggestions included vampires, the weather, and shoes.
Shoes it was. “What exquisite shoes!” exclaimed Eloise (a visiting cousin with a father who could not claim gentility) to Catherine Green, a country lass with an exuberant younger sister, Mary. Soon Mary entered with an invitation to a party at the mansion of the mysterious but promising Mr. Weatherby (see how they also got the weather in there?)
At Mr. Weatherby’s we met that good fellow, as well as his friends John Carthorse, the new rector, and Captain Cooper, an outdoorsy type. Soon they were joined by the very assertive and ahead-of-her-time Miss Hermione Withers, the dashing John Witherspoon, a servant, and briefly, a mystery man-vampire (they got that in too!)
What transpired somewhat resembled Pride and Prejudice with a touch of Mansfield Park. If you get your Jane Austen plots mixed up, you’re not alone. That’s the whole idea of this unscripted crazy show.
To be sure, the Impro members had some trouble remembering the names of their characters. Mr. Carthorse was introduced as Mr. Cartwright, prompting a character to note: “Don’t you know the name of your distant cousin? He must be very distant.” By the second act, the cast had finalized their names but were getting spaced out about their imaginary props. “I don’t know whether to eat or drink this,” remarked Eloise when handed what was apparently an invisible handkerchief.
But it’s the charm of a good improv group that errors become part of the script. Suffice to say that the show ended with everyone (almost) coupled up and dancing rather badly again.
Kudos to Holly Poe Durban for her period costumes, and to the cast (which for this performance included Lisa Fredrickson, Kari Coleman,
Dan O’Connor, Brian Jones, Edi Patterson, Floyd van Buskirk, Nick Massouh and director Paul Rogan.)
Jane Austen Unscripted runs for another week, through December 20 with afternoon tea served for $15 between shows on December 19 and 20. Do go see it and expect something different from what is described in this review, but still somehow the same.
Contact Amy Lyons