When is improv not improv?
When it becomes a play within and play about an improv class.
Without Annette is an astonishingly accurate depiction of a weekly improv class. Its all there, the emotional connections made between the characters, the disparate motivations behind their commitments to the class and the journey they all take together from first class to live show. The camaraderie, the competitive shenanigans, the jealousy, the affairs and the tears.
And what a cast of character it is.
Having spent some time around improv actors and classes, I can tell you it’s usually a minefield of egos and desperation all mixed together with talent, hard work, and the magic of chemical attraction and reaction. Each and every nuance was captured brilliantly by the playwrights and then brought to life by this wonderful cast.
The cast is large, and their talents even larger.
In fact, it is far too difficult to single out any one performance over another, so I wont even try. Needless to say, this cast took the already hilarious material and made it their own. Each of them played the truth in their characters, which is why it felt as if we were actually watching an improv show.
There is some interaction with the audience, calling out for ideas and cues, just like any other improv show, but these moments are cleverly mixed in with the drama of the classes themselves. So at times its hard to know if we are watching a performance or a performance within a performance. A play within a play.
It was so refreshing to feel as if anything could happen at any time, while still watching performances unfold. I loved witnessing the actors growing in technique and experience over the weeks of classes that this play encompassed. The relationships between the actors grew and changed as did the audiences relationship with them.
At the end of the play the class performs their improv show, and this part of the play feels like some kind of reward to both the actors and the audience. We are all so connected to these characters, so invested, that I felt as if I were supporting a friends improv show, and the rest of the audience totally committed to that support along with me. Without Annette evolved into the very best kind of improv, where the audience is primed and ready to help and encourage the actors and we all feel connected to the process of fun and laughter, both the audience and performers alike.
I came away from this play euphoric, laughed out and smiling all the way home.
As an added bonus the sublime Laurence Juber, lead guitarist from ‘Wings’, and the producer of the play, performs beautiful guitar solo’s before during and after the play. As if the play itself wasn't special enough!
Without Annette runs from June 14th to August 30th every Sunday at 7pm.
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd, West, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Heather Alyse Becker – Shaun Brady – Yancey Dunham – Jason Frankovitz – Jeremy Klein – Kyle Klein – Maria Kress – Charlie Mount – Claire Partin – Chloe Rosenthal – Andrew Walker – Andrew Villarreal
Musical Accompaniment and Composition by Laurence Juber
Assistant Director – Hope Juber
Stage Manager – Roger Cruz
Production Assistant – Annie Sims