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PIT denizens Starkey & Grace improvise their own
brand of bleak comic universe.
Starkey (white shirt) and Grace (dark red shirt).
The improvisational comedy duo of Chris Grace and Nate Starkey,
performing regularly 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the People’s Improv Theater
through the rest of July (and seen July 1 there), could be called the
Vladimir and Estragon of improv for all the dark desolation they conjure
in some of their scenes.
In one, as two hick brothers with a rabbit hutch, Starkey brags that
he’ll get more from their grandma’s will, all while urging Grace to
crawl into the hutch to pull out a rabbit to cook for dinner.
In a longer and more intricate scene, Starkey and Grace shift between
multiple characters to play out a story of a domineering husband moving
himself and his wife back from NYC to their hometown of Austin, Texas
(all the while shifting between varied Southern accents). Grace plays
the New Yorker buying their apartment and getting dismayed when he meets
the wife, who’s telling him how much she loves New York and doesn’t want
In still another scene, Grace plays the dim but earnest “Tom,” a high
school football player whom Starkey, as a few different other
characters, tries to keep from seeing a photo of his supposedly scoring
a touchdown but stepping just out of bounds before making it, and being
The duo tie all of these together with some physical act as a segue,
whether it’s crawling on the ground into the action of the next scene,
or getting stapled in anger. Plus, Starkey and Grace carried forward the
action and story of each scene with reprises in the latter moments of
In the improv play of these types of scenes, Starkey and Grace together
build anticipation that something momentous will happen. That may never
quite occur, but with this method, they keep the audience rapt with each
turn of phrase and development between the sad sacks populating their