Denver's Next Improv Star, week four: Blowup dolls and double elimination

Reality TV is great because it's obnoxious, because it's trashy and because it's unpredictable. The former characteristics are more or less unique to television (little else owes its appeal to the fact that it's so terrible), but the latter element of relentless surprise is also definitive to Improv Star. This week, the show lived up its reputation -- "the only reality improv show in Denver!" -- in its lightness and its spontanaeity. It also ended in a double-elimination, a move excruciatingly familiar to reality show addicts everywhere.

Effective body language is the spine of good acting. In its absence, all else, the character development and the plot and even the dialogue, falls flat. The guest judge this week, director Scott Piebenga, made this the night's theme. Actors were appraised based on their ability to communicate physically; as an upshot of this, the show was awash with leaps and flails and other displays of bodily extravagance.

The first challenge was based on physicality in terms of relationship. The remaining twelve contestants, divided into four groups of three, were told to perform skits in which each character would develop a distinct relationship with every other character. On its surface this task seems simple. On stage, not so much. Juggling conversation, blocking, and the generation of ideas leaves little time or mental energy for establishing character depth. The judges also imposed a second requirement: each skit must incorporate a blow-up doll, a headnod to a baccalaureatte in the audience who, evidently, had a thing for inflatable men.

Denver's Next Improv Star, week four: Blowup dolls and double elimination

What followed was an illuminating lesson in family dynamics. A wife/mother with an unhealthy attachment to her blowup doll drove her daughter to the streets while her husband stormily chainsmoked. A father did his best to integrate his doll into his domestic life; she ended up a puddle of melted latex in the oven. To the chagrin of his parents, a young man brought home a doll girlfriend. A man bought a blowup doll for himself, only to find his fiance had done the same thing, except hers was real. (An unexpected bonus to the show: romantic guidance. "Stand in the blow-up section," the doll-impersonater advised.)

The second act was structured around acting guru Anne Bogart's ideas about movement. It should be based on time, weight, and space, she believed, and based on those criteria the judges assigned the contestants physical characteristics. They would amplify some combination of quickness, lightness, heaviness, and/or slowness, traits assigned by way of coin-flip. Their scenes also were set in a line for seating at Maggiano's. Fidgeting ensued. Also food fights.

At the end of the show, Nicole Nelson and Jared McBain were eliminated. Rick Rothenberg was declared winner.

Denver's Next Improv Star, week four: Blowup dolls and double elimination

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