Despite the incredibly lousy weather on Wednesday night, the 8th Annual Philadelphia Improv Festival got off to a pretty commendable start. In fact, the second block of the night exceeded my expectations both in terms of the turnout and the performances. (I’m sure the 7 p.m. show was also great—I just wasn’t there to see it.)
I really don’t know why I had any expectations given that three out of the four groups were totally new to me, but I’m almost glad I subconsciously underestimated them.
The only familiar act, Gross Butler kicked off the show serving their usual array of disturbing characters and grim scenarios. This includes a bit about a father prostituting his daughter, which oddly enough, made me burst in to laughter.
Next up, the Troika team Chaperone featuring Frank Farrell and Meredith Weir under the guidance of improv vet, Steve Kleinedler. I don’t know where hell Frank Farrell came from, but I really hope to see more of him. Playing a gullible teenager with uncontrollable nerves and bowels, he proved relentlessly funny. He and Meredith were also quite endearing together.
The same can be said of the ladies of New York’s Beauty School Dropouts who I can only assume have been performing together for quite some time in addition to being real-life besties. These girls fed off one another without a second of hesitation, turning one of the weirdest mother-daughter relationships I’ve ever seen into comedic gold.
Finally, I didn’t realize the Philly Improv Theater started supplying its house teams with large amounts of amphetamines, but clearly Davenger is the product of some sort of comedic drug experimentation. Seriously, they were unreal. Generally I prefer smaller troupes, my logic being that the more people on the stage, the messier the scenes tend to get. Not the case with this crew. In fact, all nine members managed to out-perform each other. Yeah, I didn’t know that was possible either.
If I had to muster up any criticism it would be that this was one case where the best should not have been saved for last. The troupe was so fast and so sharp that my increasingly sleepy self could barely process it all.
The best of the Philly Improv Festival has yet to come with three more nights of shows. I’ll be hitting tonight’s line-up and shall report back tomorrow. My Philly Comedy Month coverage will then continue on Monday as the Philly Sketchfest gets underway.
FESTIVAL INFO: Each of the nightly performances (which are are split into either two or three hour-long blocks) will be held in the Prince Music Theater’s Independence Foundation Blackbox (1412 Chestnut St.). Tickets for an individual show block are $10 while a nightly pass costs $15-$20. As an additional bonus, a portion of tickets sales from this year’s festival as well as all proceeds from the annual Comedy Month raffle will benefit Career Wardrobe.