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Philly Improv Theater Revives ‘The Bat’


Credit: Tom Lovelund Photography

What happens when you pack 10 talented improvisers on to one small stage, blind-fold them then turn out the lights? You get a uniquely visceral improv comedy show performed in the pitch black, duh.

After a successful run in the 2011 Philly Fringe Festival under the title Dark Comedy, the Philly Improv Theater is now reviving the production, now dubbed The Bat, for a three-week run with shows every night Thursday through Sunday, as well as a special second midnight show on Saturday. And having gotten a chance to attend a preview performance, I can assure you it lives up to the intrigue.

With both the audience and performers forced to exercise their imaginations even more so than usual, The Bat unfolds similarly to radio play all starting with a poem passage randomly selected before the show and read out loud on the stage. “It offers the cast and audience a feeling—a shared emotional connection that you really don’t get from just asking for a word,” explains local improv vet Jason Grimley, the show’s director.

From there, just sit back, close your eyes and prepare to have your mind blown as the cast use nothing but their lightening speed wits and uncanny human sound effects to craft a wild series of scenes and characters. While obviously you’d assume not being able to play off one another’s actions and expressions would be severely limiting to the performers, it turns out it can actually have some advantages. For instance, only in the dark could you have a character convincingly tumble down several flights of stairs without them ever having to leave their seat.

7pm. Through May 19. $12-$20. The Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. 

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