Arlen Konopaki and Kevin Gillese are back for their 11th year at Edmonton’s Fringe Festival. While I have to admit that until a friend in my condo building mentioned “Scratch” during a shared elevator ride last week, I’d never even heard of the show. So with that recommendation and that recommendation alone in hand, I decided to check it out.
An hour-long long-form improv sketch, Scratch took four audience suggestions – one non-kitchen household item, one memorable life event that an audience member had experienced in the past year, one sci-fi movie, and one Oscar-worthy movie – and blendered them together with nary a prop and only a whiteboard with the four suggestions perched at the back of the stage to remind the actors of their commitment to the audience. This was to be non-theatre-sports improv at its finest.
Both in their mid-30s and Edmontonians by birth, Arlen – now living in NYC and working on his MFA – and Kevin – now Artistic Director of Dad’s Garage Theatre Company in Atlanta and married to Amber Nash, the annoying voice of Pam in Archer – had chemistry, of that there can be little question, but while that’s necessary, it’s hardly sufficient. Thankfully, the duo also had plenty of imagination, and most impressively, the ability to keep track of multiple conversations happening between multiple characters in several geographically disparate locations simultaneously and with Family Guyesque flashbacks thrown in for good measure. I have to say, those two would be fantastic at IRC.
For what is IRC if not improv ? What is IRC if not the ability to take a suggestion, accept the offer, and run with it to places untold ? What is IRC if not the ability to keep track of multiple characters in several geographically disparate locations simultaneously ? What is IRC if not the ability to jumping lightly and gracefully from one conversation to another to another and back to the first ?
While Arlen and Kevin didn’t hit every mark, they seamlessly incorporated the suggested sprinkler, integrated the holding of a coming-of-age grizzly bear, acted out Luke, Leia, Jabba, and Han Solo from Star Wars, and mixed in Red from The Shawshank Redemption, all with far greater detail and depth than I might’ve expected. Their knowledge of some of the more minute details of the films was actually quite impressive. For example, did you know that Rita Hayworth was the figure on the poster in Andy Dufresne’s jail cell ? I watched that movie several times, even wrote a paper on it for high school English class, and didn’t recall that bit.
Needless to say, I had my share of laughs, particularly at the widowed father character in his late 40’s who showed up with his son, at his son’s behest no less, to a Jewish kid’s birthday party wearing only an Affliction t-shirt and a wallet dangling from a wallet chain strapped to his dong, cracked a beer, and proceeded to shag the shit out of two under-age sisters, one of whom found Math 10 incredibly challenging despite having skipped a year of school and being “bright for her age.” This was detail, this was “saying yes,” this was top-notch long-form improv.
Scratch continues tonight (Wednesday) through Saturday at the Princess Theatre. Shows are every evening at 10:00pm with a 3:00pm matinee on Sunday to close it all out. It’s worth the $13. Tickets here.
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