Comedy is easy, Improv is hard… but not for IRTE.
Reviewed by Bob Greene
There’s a new group of funny-folk in town: IRTE or The Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble began a three-show run on March 19 at Luca Lounge on Avenue B. Their name implies what makes them special; this group of improvisers are all professional stage artists … and it shows.
HINT, their first season opener was a clever cacophony of topical humor, retro references, and on-their-feet wit all packaged in a living board game murder mystery. The audience gets a menu of killers and weapons and gets to decide who and how. The group, consisting of Robert Baumgardner, Nannette Deasy, Alex Decaneas, Curt Dixon, Adam Leong, Donna Lobello, Jamie Maloney, Danielle Montezinos and Johnny Zito lead the audience on a merry chase through the dark mansion (and the Luca Lounge certainly looked the part) of the murder victim as wacky characters that – in some ways – look like they appeared from the newspapers or our childhood. Since it’s a majority rule, the audience is still surprised at the end.
The ensemble of on-the-spotters gave the audience more than they expected. Their extempore performance had a polish and a wit that comes from training. While it was obvious that this was improvised (if you’re quick, you can spot the half-second of thought before each line) each entertainer had that extra charisma that kept the audience interested … and laughing. Standouts were Ms. Deasy and Mr. Zito.
In a Saturday Night Live tradition, the group has a mid-show singer appear. Jessica Delfino managed to take the harshest, most serious material and make it uproarious. To laugh at a song about AIDS, rape, and racial stereotypes, takes an inspired touch and she surely had it.
IRTE’s HINT moves to the Parkside Lounge, 317 E. Houston St., for its final show, Monday, April 2 – 7:00 p.m. but they have a full season of antics that include clever send-ups of school days and sci-fi. Look them up at www.wix.com/irteinfo/irte. They’re also on the radio and YouTube.
Bob Greene is a former playwright and retired history professor. He’s had works presented in New York and regionally since 1978. Today, he writes for several online services.