Thriller Theater | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Thriller Theater 

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Thriller Theater, ImprovOlympic. Like many recent films deconstructing the horror genre, writer-director Jason Chin's theatrical homage to low-budget zombie thrillers and teenybopper slasher flicks skewers their familiar devices. But thankfully Chin never assumes the academic airs of these films in Thriller Theater, instead glorifying the genre's worst aspects: pointless violence, schlocky dialogue, and 80s-style homogeneity. This trick-or-treat bag of Halloween vignettes contains an equal number of surprises and disappointments, however. Some portions of the show are as pleasurable as a whole handful of candy bars, but others are about as satisfying as a bone-dry popcorn ball. And the tone of the sketches runs the gamut from grim and serious to inane and absurd.

Chin shows a talent for quick quips and sardonic one-liners, but his ideas are not particularly fresh. Aside from one sketch--a graphic, unsettling scene at a high school reunion that pulls off a clever 180-degree turn--the material is overdeveloped and long-winded. Chin's ensemble (a collection of house, Harold, and student team members) is exceptionally strong, and an improvised bloodbath in the middle of the show is a real crowd pleaser. But overall Thriller Theater holds few surprises, and those expecting ImprovOlympic's usual literate, off-the-cuff humor may well be sorely disappointed.

--Nick Green

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