Vancouver is an improv town, boasting several improv theaters that teach and mold gaggles of improv artists each year. The most innovative and prolific is the Instant Theatre Company. Their show lineup is eclectic but well thought-out, ranging from themed performances to all out free-for-alls, where you can see the talents of the many troops that are forming or have coalesced via their school.
One of the most unique shows to come out of the Instant Theatre is The Outer Middle Zone. “Behind this dark curtain lies another dimension – a dimension of late night science fiction theater inspired by The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. A dimension where some of Vancouver’s top improvisers bring you astonishing tales from the border of the everyday and the uncanny. The dimension we call… the Outer-Middle Zone! Cast members Nikolai Witschl, Brad Duffy, Travis Bernhardt, Chelsey Stuyt, and Max Tennessen spin stories filled with unexpected twists and macabre turns, all made up on the spot based on your suggestions. Get all the chills, suspense, hilarity, and surprises your all-too-human brain can handle at Instant Theatre’s late night science fiction triple feature!”
The stories spun that night were eerie and delightful, the story of a man who swindled his way into a more modern hell, a white room without a means of escape and with no one to entertain him; a man stranded on an island, reliving the terror of interacting with the ghosts of a family he was marooned with; and the terror of being forced to battle for space on the last rocket ship, leaving Earth before the ever-increasing gravity imploded the planet and everything and everyone on it.
I have seen a lot of improv and it can be hit-or-miss, but Instant Theatre proved to be more of the former and none of the latter. There were moments watching this that I felt slightly terrified and touched by emotions that were honest but not pleasant, though in a good way.
The actors faithfully and lovingly capture the tension and fear that was North America in the middle of The Cold War. Skillful and clever, they were able to evoke the cheesy camp of early TV commercials for products that no one would want, the dryness of a newscast of that era all while battling through suggestions that would flub up those less skilled.
Instant Theatre is a gem and the future of improv in this town. If you ever get a chance to go to a show, please do: you will not be disappointed and if you feel the urge to hone your improv or comedy craft they would be happy to teach you. Visit http://instanttheatre.com/ for their show and class schedule.