For the past few years, The Improv Conspiracy has been establishing itself as the company to see for longform improv. In 3 Mad Rituals, a team of fabulous performers take on a marathon of longform formats, displaying both incredible stamina and a talent for pulling comedy gold from seemingly thin air.
3 Mad Rituals is a 90 minute behemoth of improvised comedy. The players take part in three “rituals” designed by Del Close (a legendary performer and director at Second City) – Deconstruction, The Movie, and The Harold – all working from the one suggestion. In the Improv Conspiracy’s version, the suggestion is taken from a line of poetry called out from the audience. On the night I attended, it was Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers”.
First up is the Deconstruction – a series of short scenes playing off an initial opener. Performers Andrew Strano and Andrew Watt showed that they also had drama chops, starting things with a brutally emotional scene about a father caring for his drug-addicted son while he gets clean. The rest of the crew then skilfully created comedic scenes based on this relationship.
Following this was The Movie, in which the team created a half-hour “film”, complete with suggested camera and lighting instructions. From the embers of the preceding half-hour, they created ‘Noah and the Mecha-Angel’, an anime-style take on the biblical story, featuring Hayley Tantau and Mario Hannah as a pair of extremely unproductive water demons, intent on destroying the world but failing to do much about it.
Finally was The Harold, a long-form staple of The Improv Conspiracy. Here, things got a little hit and miss. A series of scenes about a murderous husband strayed into uncomfortable territory, with the dark subject matter not getting enough laughs to feel justifiable. However, there were also bright spots. Broni Lisle’s performance as a magician facing discrimination from his community was hilarious, as was Dan Pavatich as the nation of Chad, who inexplicably spoke fluent Japanese.
3 Mad Rituals is a wonderful opportunity to check out some of Improv Conspiracy’s strongest performers testing their skills in a gruelling format. Keeping a captive audience with a 90 minutes show that starts at 10:15pm is a tall order, but the team well and truly accomplished it, keeping the room in stitches for the duration.
3 Mad Rituals is on at The Improv Conspiracy – Theatre until October 3