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Triple Play of Terror

PIT players open a trove of comedic horror stories in Halloween production.

Adam Nowak in character as Dr. Oddbody.

“The Strange Box of Dr. Oddbody presents Camp Baldwin,” the People’s Improv Theater’s Halloween show, as a largely improvised affair, is less elaborately staged or costumed than the UCB Theatre’s counterpart, “Killgore” (see review, 10/29/08), but holds its own in its wry wit and sensibility in parodying the horror genre for the holiday occasion.

Seen October 17, the show, running about 35 minutes, presents three improvised vignettes performed by seven-member PIT house improv team The Baldwins, hosted by Adam Nowak, as the only costumed character, the title’s Dr. Oddbody, who picks titles as suggestions for the pieces. The hallmark of the show is its concise, witty off-kilter little bits of dialogue, sometimes dropped in from out of nowhere.

Describing the mystical box from which he’s drawing the suggestions, previously submitted en masse, for the stories to be performed by the Baldwins, Adam Nowak gives an aside, “…and I keep my keys in it.” In the first piece on this night, the source of the evil haunting a hotel is said to be the combination of a “Civil War burial ground with an ancient Indian burial ground dug underneath it … kind of a potpurri of evil.”

In the second piece, Steve Soroka gets in a line like this as the stepmom to Sarah Nowak’s “disturbed” teenager, noting archly “as a woman …” what she sees wrong with the girl’s behavior. And Nowak herself had a lot of fun with her character, a thousand-year-old malevolent creature only temporarily in the guise of a sullen teenager.

The third piece put Baldwins member Chris Griggs center stage as an aspiring stand-up comic who turned to Nowak as a gypsy spellcaster who had him tell a joke into her cauldron, making this the source of his rise to success -- a plot twist reflecting the wit also seen in the improvised dialogue.

Other Baldwins players added their own dimensions to the show. Brett Wean put a lot of energy into the horror aspects of the tales, illustrating the violence played for laughs by rapidly gesturing, in an accepted improv convention, to show the cinematic bloodletting in the first piece, as “entrails, entrails, entrails” spill out, he narrates. Meg Griffiths brought a dose of authentic acting to center the pieces, in parts such as Griggs’ sister, also a stand-up comic, whose success inspires his jealous need to eclipse her. In a role like this, she might not take the broader comedic turns like the Nowaks or Wean, but supplied the genuine emotion for other turns of the plot.

Even with this Halloween show being improvisational rather than written, the Baldwins’ imaginations prove expansive enough in devising premises and illustrating them make this Halloweedn show as vivid as any scripted show benefiting from on stage theatrical effects may be.

“The Strange Box of Dr. Oddbody presents Camp Baldwin,” concludes its weekly run at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 31.



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