This past Friday night I had the joy of watching Small College Town at HUGE. the latest improv show from Denzel Belin. I really enjoyed the creativity and innovation of his show Preludes last fall. Small College Town builds on some of the things Belin created in Interludes and carves its own little campus onto the stage.
The format of the show opens similarly to Interludes with the cast improvising a song based on the name of the University, suggestions of which were solicited from the audience on pen and paper prior to the show. Greeted with the fight song of Lucifer State University and the small town the university inhabits.
After introducing the college and town via song (accompanied by a live keyboardist) the cast of eight improvisors craft a two act story for the audience. The cast is divided into two groups of four. Four improvisors wearing colorful shirts play the students, continuous characters throughout the narrative as they travel from acceptance to graduation. The other four cast all in black play everything else; fellow students, professors, parents, bricklayers, and more. The arching plot of the four students really draws us in. Not often are there improv shows where we can see characters have an opportunity to really grow and learn. It feels like a scripted narrative, but it has the elasticity and randomness of improv. These long working story arcs really make the show click, and the cast members did a phenomenal job of using callbacks to tie it all together.
What really made this show stand out was how well the cast would find the game within a scene frequently. For example at Lucifer State there is a team of bricklayers, sworn to silence. They lay bricks made out of souls. The cast found the game in this, growing a world with soul laden bricks, and silent workers. It was both very funny and made the world the cast played in very real. The cast continually found these games within the scene, adding to the humor of the situation while also growing the world.
Simply put, Small College Town is a wonderfully fun show. The directors of the show have truly created an environment where the cast like to play. The joy and fun energy was present in every scene. Cast members where constantly handing each other wonderful gifts on stage and each member was ready to run with those gifts. The laughs were constant, and they evolved from a very natural and spontaneous narrative crafted by a energetic and delightful cast. Shows continue Fridays in July and August, at HUGE Improv Theater. This is one definitely worth checking out.