Fringe review: ‘Is This Seat Taken?’, Jester Theater Company, Oakland, FL
By Elizabeth Maupin
Anyone who does improv, or who sees a lot of improv, knows that long-form improv – one improvised story that can last up to an hour or more – is a bear. Lots can go wrong, and does, but you’re stuck with that story, and sometimes you just have to torture it to death until your time runs out.
All of which goes to show that David Charles and Jay Hopkins must be improv masters, at least if you go by Tuesday night’s performance of Is This Seat Taken? Everything went right in their nearly hour-long comic one-act about two strangers in an empty movie theater waiting for Casablanca to begin. One guy, Hopkins, turned out to be escaping from a house where his wife was entertaining a lover; the other, Charles, was a schlemiel who met a woman on the internet and planned to propose.
That led to a lost engagement ring, some Claude Rains references and a lot of talk about movie classics, none of which Charles’s character had ever seen. And it led to a lot of sidling up and down invisible rows of invisible seats as the would-be suitor grew more and more frantic and the unhappy husband more and more depressed.
The story is different every night, of course, and sometimes it’s going to flop. But the two improvisers are good together: They know each other’s rhythms – Charles frenetic, Hopkins comfortable and calm – and they know when to give each other room to fly. There are no promises in improv, so all I can say is this: These guys know what they’re doing. You can’t ask for more than that.
Remaining performances: 11 p.m. Thursday 5/27, 6:55 p.m. Friday 5/28, 9:20 p.m. Saturday 5/29. Brown venue.