Stretching, shrinking… and splitting our sides

By Megan Ejack

Last Wednesday night at the New Revue Stage on Granville Island, a cast of six set out on a storytelling mission that had me happily bewildered for about an hour an a half.

What I witnessed was Vancouver TheatreSports League’s summer series, Stretch, an evolving evening of longform improv that was all over the map. Based on a single initial suggestion from the audience, these guys took it across the universe and back to your front door.

Not only did they ‘stretch’ the ideas and stories out without missing a beat, but they also transcended the physical laws of humanity by dancing, shrinking in size and speaking in tongues (or at least in languages they only half knew). Perhaps it could be called interdisciplinary improv?

The cast worked amazingly well together, going full force ahead with each suggestion and digging each other out when a joke fell flat.  Sometimes they even brought in brand new players altogether as pinch-hitters.  Such was the introduction of one of my favourites, the teeny tiny finger-extortionist—although honorary mentions go to Tony, the profoundly misunderstood dancer, and Nathan Clark’s Karaoke guy—(does anyone ever really know all the words?)

These and other multi-layered characters were well-developed before our eyes, and came alive even before we, or they, knew where the story was going to take us.

I have to admit that gold star honours of the night, however, go to the sound girl(s), who brought down the house with a strong sense of performance and a quick wit.  Not only did the music and effects tie each scene together, but they became an integral player in the continuity of the ongoing stories—truly, the most ingenious aspect of the show.

The audience was sparse, but committed, and the actors gave a performance worthy of a packed house.  In my opinion, the best tool improvisers have to include the crowd is the throwback to an earlier joke; well let’s just say, things were getting tossed around all over the place, and everyone was picking up what they were putting down.

Get out to see Stretch at the New Revue Stage on Granville Island—Wednesday nights are 2 for 1, so you don’t even have to ‘stretch’ out your wallet. It’s a great way to get out and spend a summer weeknight—and see what other hidden talents these guys can pull out of their…acts.

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