Slow News Day
The Apothecary at the Trading Post

Remaining performances:
July 15 at 9:30 .m.; July 17 at 7:45 p.m.; July 26 at 1:30 p.m.

They say: Politics? The Economy? Global Warming? Not so much. This news crew specializes in made-up stories and behind-the-scenes shennanigans. Slow News Day brings you the news as you see it—-improvised based on your suggestions.

Ted’s take: Reviewing an improv show is less like critiquing theater and more like covering the Mets: You can report what happened, discuss the homers and the bobbles, &c., but there’s no guarantee that what you saw on one day will have any relation to what’ll happen the following. I say this not only because Slow News Day (structured as a triptych of on-air reports, behind-the-scenes buffoonery, and commercial interludes), is bound to vary wildly from one night to the next, but also because it’s a lot like watching the Mets—intermittently worthy, and just as uneven.

The gist: you write the headlines; anchorpeople Ryan Gillis and Pamela Nash deliver ’em; reporter-in-the-field Min Cho reports from, um, the field; and editorial troublemaker Seaton Smith presents screeds against Maryland Drivers, cupcakes, and his own substance-abuse problems. Meanwhile, all is not lollipops and dandelions backstage, as a well-meaning but corrosive intern (J.W. Crump) accidentally torches Pam’s car, and Ashley Whitehurst does her damnedest to help co-intern Katie Dufresne snag a full-time reporting job. The producer, meanwhile, lingers in the production box, his disembodied voice hilariously mistaken, time and again, for that of God. All of the above, of course, touted as extemporaneous, original schtickage.

Here, I suspect, there’s a bit of corner-cutting going on: some of the best tropes smack of having been rehearsed, as when Gillis—gleefully, muggingly—struggles to slip his undersize jacket onto his oversize frame before the cameras go live. Gillis has a number of equally funny, and more improvisatory, triumphs, but the truest ex tempore chops reside with Crump, Dufresne, and Whitehurst, a trio known elsewhere as TV-MA. The commercials enacted by these three (today’s: prescription soup; kitten potty-training toilet seats; chocolate toothpaste) are among the show’s highlights; likewise their foible-laden camaraderie as the news show’s pissant interns.

It bears noting that this is a tremendously ambitious undertaking. Many more seasoned improvvers restrict their shows to short-form “games,” rather than attempting extended, character- and plot-based invention. Which perhaps speaks to the main difficulty here—that the cast is forced to focus more on the motivic unities than on the jokes. And the jokes, folks, should be sacrosanct.

See it if: You’ve always wished that SNL’s “Weekend Update” went on for, oh, say, an hour and change.

Skip it if: You’ve little patience for repeated quips about Maryland drivers and “drugs.”