Documentary captures a masterful improvisation duo
and gives viewers an insight into what makes the performance art form
Jagodowski and Pasquesi.
“Trust Us, This Is
All Made Up,” a documentary about Chicago-based improv duo T.J. & Dave [T.J.
Jagodowski and David Pasquesi], screened July 10 as a film offering at
92Y Tribeca, a venue with a rich comedy performance program, is an
invaluable resource both for beginning and advanced improv students and
performers, as well as educational for theatergoers who aren’t familiar
with the art of improv performance.
What makes “Trust Us” such a well-done documentary is its director Alex
Karpovsky and cinematographer Ari Boles approach to documenting the
nearly hour-long improv performance by T.J. & Dave in New York that
makes up the bulk of the film. Merely filming an improv show flat, with
one camera, would easily turn what might be exciting in a live theater
into a dull proceeding onscreen. But the filmmakers used multiple
cameras and in the film’s editing, often have two panels of action
onscreen at the same time. These cinematic devices create visuals that
echo the different characters and personalities TJ & Dave create on
stage in their long-form improv, as well as the different scenes and
settings that unfold.
But the performance is not all there is to the documentary. There is a
prelude to get the viewer acquainted with T.J. & Dave and how they
became a duo (Pasquesi once performed improv regularly in Chicago with
Chris Farley and Tim Meadows, but moved more into dramatic acting for
awhile after his colleagues went to SNL). However, this section serves
also to explain clearly for the uninitiated what improv is all about, as
T.J. & Dave describe how they communicate on stage in performance.
“We know each other so well now that we know the littlest things each
other does and can react to them,” Jagodowski says in this portion of
the film, and that bears out as the viewer gets close-ups of their faces
later in the performance where you can see those reactions in their eyes
much more readily than you even might in the theater with them if you
were too far away.
“I know that I can do anything with T.J. -- sometimes it’s silly,
sometimes it’s sad, sometimes I can be mean,” says Pasquale in the film,
pointing to the level of trust between the pair as performers. “Because
there’s no way I can hurt him. He’s just that good [as a performer.”
In the performance chronicled in “Trust Us,” what starts as a seemingly
humdrum office interaction, quickly spins into an intricate web of
intrigue around the office softball team purposefully throwing games to
ingratiate the company with the clients whose teams they’re playing,
revealing characters like the boss driving the deceit, his receptionist,
his assistant, an employee and player who’s disgusted by the revelation,
and a few other office workers involved in the story, all played by the
duo -- sometimes with the same character being played by the other
performer to make a scene in the unfolding story possible.
There’s also a postscript to the performance, in which the duo,
backstage, dissect the performance they’ve just given for mistakes, such
as whether they mixed up character names during the show, or failed to
indicate the right character with the right set of mannerisms previously
established. “It’s just that we don’t want to make the same mistake
again,” said Jagodowski, in person at a question-and-answer session
following the screening. “Most of the errors can be remedied by paying
closer attention to each other.”
T.J. & Dave happened to be present to attend the screening, already
here for one of their monthly runs in New York, continuing at 10 p.m.
July 11 and 12 at the Barrow Street Theater. An eventual DVD release of
“Trust Us” may end up adding another full-length performance by the duo
that was filmed but not used in the documentary.