A number of improv musicals have floated though this town over the years most of them associated with Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival but SAK Comedy Lab's FourPlay is one of the funniest and most coherent I've seen. And it's running for much longer than one week. Though the title appears to indicate that SAK is venturing away from its reputation for squeaky-clean humor, the show adheres to the theater's "all ages" promise while still providing solid laughs, solid entertainment and your money's worth on a late evening.
Â Â Â Â Â Under the guidance of director David Charles, a rotating set of SAK staffers steals the identities of four audience members and wraps them into a complete and interrelated story. At a recent performance, Charles interpreted a couch potato named Nick, Chase Padgett became an earnest youth counselor, Krisha Bohanan played a loving mother and Darren Vierday got the best role of all: perma-student. The more boring and open-ended the roles are, the more material the improvisers have. After all, you can go anywhere as a semiemployed community college dropout, but it's tough work to pull a laugh out of an aeronautic engineer specializing in subsonic wingtip design.
Â Â Â Â Â A tight three-piece band led by Jim Rhinehart provides the music, allowing the cast to abuse a plethora of stock songs. A subtle call for a song like "Take Five" can metamorphose into a mellow "Who Needs to Declare a Major?" Mostly, though, the story hangs on the stock musical archetypes like the power ballad, the soulful love lament and even a country song. With few exceptions, these songs all come out in tune, on key and funny. (Hitting any two of those three is hard for even the best professional musicals.)
Â Â Â Â Â Like all improv, FourPlay is built by extending and interweaving a selection of games that form the real heart of the art form. Everyone in the cast has brilliant moments, and the highlight is director Charles, who combines wonderful vocal depth and control with the manic energy and creativity SAK pounds into its students. Without him, the show would still be excellent, but the ideas he contributes are transcendent. My favorite number recast the Sondheim classic "Send in the Clowns" as "Where Is My Couch?" It may not sound like much here, but in person it's a scream.
Â Â Â Â Â So, will it still be a scream when you get to visit? The chances are good it will, because even with the rotating cast, characters, and situations, there's a heritage of hilarity in this oddly shaped space attached to a municipal parking garage. FourPlay is just another of the disgustingly respectable shows that SAK can whip up without a writer. Not only is it funny, but you'll be completely safe sitting in the front row: They almost always pick on the people in the back.Fourplay Event Details