theatre preview

Photo credits: (left) Drew McCreadie (right) Ian Boothby.  Photo by Pia GuerraSWORD PLAY
Improv Outlet Co-op
Playwrights Theatre Centre
Granville Island
August 11–28

“Is it improv or is it scripted? We like to call the show ‘gisted.’ We know the structure of the show and the gist of what should happen in each scene. There are some set scripted lines and jokes . . . but we allow ourselves the room to improvise …” This is how the Improv Outlet Co-op folks explain the nature of their version of The Three Musketeers. “Gisted” is obviously a versatile word—a synonym for ragged and hilarious, under-rehearsed and remarkably clever, depending on the moment. I howled with laughter, I looked at my watch, I wondered why they didn’t cut that whole long ball of twine gag, and I envied them their comic imagination.

Here are the things I liked best. The stuffed horsey D’Artagnan (Jeff Gladstone) rides as he sets off to audition for the Musketeers, and the advice the troubadour gives him: “Don’t fuck with the Teamsters.” The evil Cardinal Richelieu (Ian Boothby) sponsored by Atkins’ low-carb communion wafers. Athos (Drew McCready) improvising a story simultaneously illustrated by a hand (designer Pia Guerra) drawing on the back of a projection screen, erasing and re-drawing the scene just as quickly as the teller revises it. The audience providing sound effects in the dark for the story Porthos (Nick Harrison) tells. (Standard Theatresports stuff, I know, but when it works well it is very, very funny.) D’Artagnan kicking the shit out of Anne of Green Gables (Penelope Corrin), sent by the Cardinal to try to kill him. The cast (including Diana Francis) as Dungeons and Dragons slackers trying to figure out how to bring the Cardinal back from the dead. And my favourite scene: The Cardinal singing “Over the Rainbow” while his ghoulish henchman eviscerates D’Artagnan in silhouette behind the screen, cutting off limbs, plucking out eyes, ripping out organs. All in good fun.

Many of the best sequences involve that screen, including a video with guest appearances from local celebrities including Gloria Macarenko and Larry Campbell. The theatrical equivalent of a good summer popcorn movie, with many more hits than misses, Sword Play is gist the thing for a lazy August evening.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 8:21 PM
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