The Armando Diaz Experience Presents the Mosaic | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Armando Diaz Experience Presents the Mosaic 

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The Armando Diaz Experience Presents the Mosaic, ImprovOlympic. There's no middle ground with this Monday-night all-star jam session: when the curtain falls, the results have been either depressingly sloppy or absolutely transcendent. More often than not, the Armando Diaz Experience has gravitated toward the latter--exactly what you'd expect from such a talented group of improvisers.

But though the ensemble is deep enough to stock two or three really strong Harold teams, a show's structure is essential in keeping the performers' individual rhythms in sync. That's the sticking point with the latest incarnation of the Armando Diaz Experience, "the mosaic," a patchwork conglomeration of long-form improv approaches (the Harold, the JTS Brown, the Jazz Freddy). In past years, the evening's designated "Armando Diaz" narrator could always be counted on to step in and put the show back on track with a sharp monologue whenever the scene work became anemic. But "the mosaic" has no Armando Diaz, and monologues--previously the show's most interesting topical feature--play only an incidental role.

In the show I saw, some cast members vied awkwardly for stage time while others made brief appearances, then disappeared for the rest of the evening. And while all of these seasoned performers maintained a certain level of comfort despite playing things fast and loose, without a captain at the helm, none was able to impose the kind of structure that would have prevented scenes from spiraling into self-indulgent excess.

--Nick Green

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