Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Seasonal Disorder is modest by Washington Improv Theater’s standards: an hour or so of monologues and scenes designed to explore fucked-up family dynamics during the most dysfunctional time of the year. Recent productions such as iMusical (an improvised musical) and Neutrino Video Project (a fully improvised movie, acted and edited on the spot) put WIT under pressure to find a rhythm quickly and work toward seamless closure. Seasonal Disorder, on the other hand, plays it fast and loose throughout and features a rotating cast of performers culled from WIT’s founding troupe onesixtyone. The charms—watching a group of seasoned improvisers stepping into hot zones and riffing off audience suggestions—are accordingly modest. Of course, since most holiday-themed shows tend to reveal the “true spirit of Christmas” is a puddle of saccharine vomit, anything that’s a little more mean-spirited (as Seasonal Disorder proved itself to be when one character constructed a tutu out of insulation and ended up on a respirator) almost merits a free pass. Viola Spolin and her son Paul Sills revolutionized the art of improvisation in the 1950s with a deceptively simple axiom: The more a scenario is modeled on everyday human interactions, the more humorous it is. Of course, 50 years ago, no one grew up taking Ritalin, and stand-up comics still adhered to a more patient storytelling model. Seasonal Disorder is certainly “funny” and “truthful” in that Spolin-and-Sills sense, and the WIT ensemble is well-versed in the improv fundamentals that make this type of exploratory exercise ultimately worth watching. On the evening I attended, much of the humor stemmed from the increasingly bizarre justifications the ensemble made to incorporate audience suggestions (generated from a survey included in the program). An enormous box contained a gold necklace, which became a rapper’s chain, which became a pathway to ultimate fantasy fulfillment, and so on. I just wish the troupe took more time to explore points of convergence between all of the characters, something that could easily be attended to by zeroing in on one character as the pivot point and establishing the relationships within the introductory monologues. The skeletons in the closet don’t come tumbling out until the race for closure, but we already know that’s not how families (even healthy ones) work. The weight of history is stifling and omnipresent from the get-go.