Friday, Jan. 21, SAK Comedy Lab premiered its new show Gorilla Theatre, directed by Rollins’ Dr. David Charles (Dr. D). This fast-paced, short-form improv show pits four players against each other in a contest for the appreciation of the audience.
Each player chooses a theme—two of Friday night’s being “truth” and “beginnings”— and on the player’s turn, he or she directs the others as they create a scene that supports that theme. The show continues on in this pattern, each concluding with the audience yelling either “banana” to award a banana for a successful scene or “forfeit” to deny the player and force a challenge, one of which resulted in Dr. D being forced to dance awkwardly to “Ice Ice Baby,” which he did to some of the biggest laughs of the night.
This was only one of many hilarious moments during the show, including a scene in which the players were directed by Mike Carr to create a scene in ancient Greece. Their goal was to discover the Pythagorean Theorem while their friend Pythagoras was at home. While playing out the scene, the actors worked themselves into position— Jamie Black sitting, petting an imaginary goat, Eligio standing on a a chair, holding up “the world’s smallest kitten” and Dr. D standing to the right, ironically playing a triangle— craft ing a moment for Dr. D to notice that the three had formed a right triangle and exclaim, “Ah! A2+B2=C2! We must tell Pythagoras!”
Throughout the scene, Carr provided direction for the players through a mic on the audience level in front of the stage, providing a dynamic that many wish they could do on the sidelines— become an armchair imporivser and impose their “better” ideas on those in play.
Renee Fiorot ‘12, a member of Rollins Improv Players, said after seeing the show for the first time, “I like how the players have the ability to direct as well as play the game. It allows for a lot of creative opportunities and ensures that all of the performers are constantly involved and working together.”
When asked about selecting Gorilla Theatre as a new project at SAK, Dr. D explained, “I thought it would be a good fi t for the audience. The show is short-form with a drive, which is what the improvisers here do well.” The show was designed by Keith Johnstone, the founder of Theatresports who has taught and written extensively on improvisation. He went on to explain that he first saw the show in his home country of New Zealand but altered several aspects of the original when he brought it to SAK. One major change is the prize awarded the show’s winner. At SAK, it is a plastic trophy with a stuffed monkey toy perched atop, complete with banging cymbals, but originally the best director won a man in a gorilla suit, which the winner took home. “We weren’t going to do that,” Dr. D laughed.
Another participant in the show was Rollins alumna Ana Eligio ‘09, a three-year member of Rollins Improv Players who makes her debut at SAK in Gorilla Theatre. Her appearance on the stage with Dr. D makes their combined presence a unique one, he being the director of her undergraduate improv troupe. While she assured she was comfortable working with him, she mentioned that there are certain moments that come up in improvised scenes that the two would rather not have happen— namely, a situation that the two deftly avoided in Friday night’s show. They shared a scene in which they were told to be romantically interested in one another, Ana as a Walgreens cashier and Dr. D as a customer. Several gestures and line vocalizations stayed true to the suggestion, but as the scene drew to a close—and they drew closer to one another—Dr. D mimed brushing his teeth, revisiting an action he had done in order to escape the more obvious potential ending to the scene. Said Eligio of the moment, “I definitely told him—without telling him—that we were not kissing.”
Eligio and Dr. D figure to be constant players in “Gorilla Theatre,” performing against other SAK veterans. Showtimes are Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. and Fridays at 11:30 p.m., Thursday’s ticket price shrinking from $12 to $5 for students and those in the service industry.