headliner melds art and showmanship with a blend of sketches and
“Yankee Swap Death Match,” the prime-time weekend show at ImprovAsylum
in Boston, does a good job of straddling the line between accessible
entertainment and artful exploration of improvisation.
performance November 3, featuring three men and three women (two male
group members were absent), the group sought to connect right away with
its audience by having a cameraman focus on an audience member they
chose, putting her image up on screens around them and taking her as
inspiration for an opening song.
lessen the chance of losing the audience’s attention, the group
alternates between written sketches and short improvised scenes, with
both types of bits just using a handful of chairs as the only props.
their sketches, the group gets in some dark twisted humor, with Rachel
Bitney as an office worker who can’t stop karate chopping everyone who
gets too close, leaving a “retarded” guy (their words not this writer’s)
to wonder what has happened. Another sketch with a similar tone features
Ryan Dolan as a war veteran who’s lost his sight, which is topped off by
Jeremy Brothers’ recalling his war protestor past to the vet instead of
being a friend and cheering him up.
Brothers is a versatile stand-out among the group, playing a range of
roles in the sketches, like the aforementioned retarded guy, and the
protagonist of a sketch about unwanted encounters with old high school
classmates in the grocery store back in his hometown.
improv portions of the show are left open to a succession of audience
suggestions to engage the audience as the scenes build. Micah Sherman
and Taylor Burris began a scene as a clumsy couple worried about their
23-year-old son still living at home, but added another layer to their
physical comedy of pratfalls as they try to lay down the law to him.
a versatile cast that can play to complementary strengths, ImprovAsylum
can entertain on both broad and subtler levels, in written sketches as
well as their improvised scenes.