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Bonita City Improv: (Left to Right) Leigh Shein, Margot Escott, Craig Price, Francis Briggs, Bill Owens, Marilu Holmes, Marian Horgan and Steve Cobb

 

By Mickey Lacroix

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Improv Tonight this past Saturday, November 5th where I got to see Bonita City Improv perform with special guest Stacey Smith.  It was an interesting show, to say the least.  The show was comprised of a number of different skits, most of which involved input from the audience, if not direct audience participation.  (Upon entering the theater, patrons are given a questionnaire, and the audience’s answers to this questionnaire then become material the performers work into their skits.)

In my opinion, the skits ranged from being very strange (imagine a song set in a pizza parlor where a pizza chef is professing his love to his boss, who has a propensity for wearing escargot on her shoe), to being riotously funny.  My favorite skit of the night was “Sideline Karaoke.”  In this skit Stacey Smith was sent out of the room while the audience provided three song suggestions to the other performers.  Once the songs were established, Stacey was called back to the stage, and it became her job to guess the three mystery songs, while the members of Bonita City Improv pantomimed clues to the song names. The audience was prompted to give Stacey feedback by giving her a polite “golf” clap so she would know when she was “getting warmer.”

To make the challenge tougher, Stacy wasn’t allowed to simply guess the songs, she was responsible for singing lyrics to correspond with what she was seeing as the other actors rotated across the stage two at a time miming things they thought would help her.  She got the first two songs relatively quickly, garnering several laughs as she worked her way into singing “Beat It,” then “Sixteen Candles.”  She did this despite the fact that, while Francis Briggs played brilliantly on the piano, he played music that had no relation whatsoever to the songs that had been suggested.    The third song was another matter.

Someone had suggested “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and that’s where the true magic started to happen.  Stacey began to shine as she fished around for the right answers, often poking fun at the pantomimes, and making the audience riotously aware of how easy it was to see other things going on in the gyrations of the other performers, and riffing for several minutes as she worked out the first two words to the title of the song.  As she struggled to put it together, she asked, “Dear God please” let the other performers break the final bit down into syllables, which was a funny moment in itself.  By the time she got it figured out, those of us in the audience were so invested in her getting to the correct song title that we were cheering like the Cubs had finally won game seven of the world series…  in extra innings.  (Like that could ever happen).

Bonita City Improv performs monthly at Improv Tonight, at 8:00pm on the first Saturday of the Month. Tickets are available through www.artcenterbonita.org, and are modestly priced at $15 each, (10% off for current CFABS members.)

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