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PIT denizens Starkey & Grace improvise their own brand of bleak comic universe.

Pictured: 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 to leave.

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 disappointed.

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 the show.

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 improvised world.




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