Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences
Through May 20
Research Triangle High School, Raleigh
By now, it’s a set piece in action-adventure films: the sequence where two protagonists escape from a hundred-foot well by crouching, back to back, and walking their way up the walls.
Director J. Chachula’s intriguing new theatrical experiment with Flying Machine Theatre Company
is a lot like that. The long-time Meisner instructor and improvisational comedy maven has been teaching both Meisner methods and improv comedy to a sextet of actors in recent months. The goal is improvisational theater, where actors explore the dramatic instead of the comic potential in scenarios they devise, on the spot, from audience-provided situational prompts.
Last weekend we learned that, like the well escape, improv drama works best when adequate tensions are maintained between protagonists throughout the scene. An early set with newcomer Elysha Nichols and veteran Page Purgar effectively probed long disagreements between adult sisters as they excavated their mother’s storage unit.
In two scenes, Nichols and Thaddaeus Edwards got at the intimacy of a married couple making dinner and the discomfort of a different couple breaking up. In the latter sequence, physical acting rendered words all but unnecessary to convey a painful honesty rarely seen on stage.
This enterprise is still relatively young, and it shows in the actors’ occasional problems: belabored exposition, reliance on stereotypes, deflected conflict, lowered dramatic stakes, and too-easy punch lines. But when this group found the emotional reality of people in an unexpected change, they connected strongly with one another and with the audience. Keep a close eye on this group.