High-energy show now playing at the Avenue Theater
On those nights when you’re thinking it’d be fun to go to a party but there’s none to be found, I’ve got a suggestion for you: ComedySportz. Playing on an extended run through Nov. 24 at the Avenue Theater downtown, ComedySportz is an improvisational comedy show that pits two teams against one another in a family-friendly two-hour show that’s a ton of fun.
While many of the show’s trappings will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen an improv show or an episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, ComedySportz layers that sports-match theme on top to great effect. The rotating cast includes a blue team and a red team of three players each, along with a referee, who perform on a miniature basketball court-like space surrounded on three sides by the cheering audience. (There’s even a wee Zamboni that comes out at half-time.)
The theme is established early on, with the players running out for their intros and high-fiving audience members, all of whom have been supplied with voting cards with red and blue sides to vote on individual games. There’s a party atmosphere to the whole thing, with loud music playing between the action and a pair of tiny bars serving up beer and wine. Audience members are called upon frequently to offer suggestions for the next bit and to help out on stage here and there. Back in the sound booth, “The Voice” is another actor who provides impromptu sound effects and appropriate music — an improv innovation that helps move things along while enhancing the individual stories being created on stage.
As the referee makes clear at the top of the show, off-color material won’t be tolerated, with the risk of points lost and a “brown bag” foul for the offender (yep, you’ve got to wear a bag over your head for the rest of the game). My teenage son though this was a bug, but I deemed it a feature. Keeping things at the PG-13 level, for one, opens the show up for kids, while the content guardrails prevent things from running into the gutter for cheap laughs.
Like any improv show, the energy the cast gets from the audience is a key component to the action, and no two shows are alike. On the night we went, I’d say there was about an 80 percent success rate on audience suggestions bearing comic fruit. And while the referee occasionally blew a play dead for lameness, there were a few times I might have blown the whistle a little sooner on bits that just weren’t hitting the mark.
Mostly though, the high-energy cast was in top form, running through a variety of familiar improv gags like movie tropes, made-up songs and ridiculous pantomime. One of the more successful bits was one where a one-word suggestion was acted out forward, then in reverse, with the referee changing the direction on the fly for as long as the cast was able to keep things mostly straight and funny.
For anyone looking for a fun night out with or without the kids, or for an office outing or any other occasion where a few laughs would be welcome, ComedySportz is a pretty sure bet. It runs through Nov. 24 at The Avenue, and the team is also on hire for private and corporate events. You can learn more on the website here.