The Dead Alewives | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Dead Alewives 

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For the last 15 years Chicago-style improv has been long on talk, short on physicality. And even when the humor has gotten physical, it's usually the Jerry Lewis, spazzed-out shtick that ImprovOlympic alum and SNL regular Chris Farley has built his career on. Which explains why it takes an improv troupe from, of all places, Milwaukee, to do the coals-to-Newcastle thing and show us how much better improvised material can be when actors have a dancer's control over their instruments. In scene after scene of this fully improvised show, the Alewives, taking a page from the work of such golden age comedians as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton, transform the most mundane activities--mowing a lawn, mopping the floor, smiling a wide, toothy, embarrassed grin--into marvelously comic acts. Not all of their improvisations are equally successful, and their clinkers would make even a young ImprovOlympic team wince, but when these guys hit their target they're hilarious. The show also contains a different musical guest each week and some occasional scripted material (unseen by this critic). At the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, South Hall, 3319 N. Clark, 327-5588. Through February 24: Fridays, 10:30 PM. $7.

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