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LA Noir UnScripted: Whodunit? Not Even ImproTheatre Knows Until They Do It

Some of the cast of ImproTheatre's LA Noir Unscripted (Photo by Blake Gardener/Courtesy ImproTheatre)
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Without a good script, the hallmarks of really good film noir don't have a leg to stand on. The archetype characters and suspenseful plot as presented on the page give actors and directors the material to create intrigue and excitement. So what happens when those pages are blank? One of Los Angeles' premiere longform improv troupes, ImproTheatre, faces that very dilemma--or rather challenge, with every performance of their brilliant new stage enterprise, LA Noir UnScripted. The rotating cast of talented improvisers, many of whom you've seen in film and television, embark on a delightful and surprising journey into the darkest corners of the mean city--and their own minds--in a show that is running now through June 13th at Theatre Asylum in Hollywood.

When the lights come up in the small theatre, the evening's cast marches onto the stage for a lineup, and have only their costumes, a bare bones noir-esque set, and the giggle-worthy taped body outlines on the stage floor, to give them any sense of character. Relying on the audience's suggestion of both a locale from Los Angeles in the 1940s and an object (in the show I saw, it was Larchmont and a piano) they dive headlong into a two-act performance guided by instinct, talent, and their collective savvy of the genre.

What ensues is a clever romp through the trenches of noir's beloved conventions, as the admirably skilled actors riff off each other, embracing fumbles and twists into the ad hoc plot and remarkably create a net that not only keeps the entire cast afloat, but manages to weave the strands of a complex mystery from conflict to resolution by the time the show must come to an end. That may sound dire and serious, but you would never know that from where you sit in your chair; ImproTheatre's performers seem uncannily calm...and are uncannily hilarious.