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HEADLINES, at the Apollo Theater. Drawing inspiration from newspapers strewn about the stage, the troupe of Neil McNamara, Amanda Blake Davis, Ryan Gowland, and Abby Schachner presents a relatively loose long-form improvisation built mostly of alternating two-person dialogues. Judging by their poise on a blisteringly bad opening night, they're capable of much better than what I saw; some of their difficulties, however, stem from the ground rules themselves. Fading from one scene to another can make for a richer, deeper pool of associations, but eschewing buttons and sharp edits is also like tying one arm behind your back. Reusing the newspapers as props is a similarly high-risk, low-yield investment--they're not very malleable and tend simply to distract from the action.

Improv is always a roll of the dice, though, and any time you see players this seasoned stumbling through a quagmire of stock riffs on visits to the doctor, somewhat closeted homosexuality, and performance art, you know the gods were thinking snake eyes all along. Given a more auspicious evening--and better choices early on--the group's talents suggest they might well succeed at the task they've set themselves.


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