Mtl Fringe: Fringe: Improvised


David Kaufman and DJ Mausner in Fringe: Improvised. Photo: Saima Ahmed

Performed by DJ Mausner and David Kaufman. Directed by David Kaufman

Much of Fringe is about taking a chance on an unknown quality with a wacky title. The title for Fringe: Improvised, though, isn’t likely to have you scratching your head over what to expect: it’s an improv show, and it’s part of the Fringe.

If you’re familiar with the fine work that goes on at Montreal Improv, you’ll need no further prompting to go see this show. If you’re not familiar with that venue (and school), or with the pure pleasure of what happens when this seat-of-the-pants genre actually works, this is an ideal introduction.

The cast is made up of two Montreal Improv regulars, DJ Mausner and David Kaufman. The show begins with a tongue-in-cheek intro as the two of them reassure us of their colossal acting skills while pompous Hollywood music plays. Setting out the ground rules, Mausner and Kaufman explain that the next 50 minutes will be completely made up on the spot, following a prompt from the audience as to what the title might be.

As they asked for us to call out titles, the lizard part of my brain came up with The Strawberry Yacht which, bafflingly, ended up being the one to be voted by the applause-o-meter. All quite gratifying, though now I was worryingly an indirect part of the show. Would everything collapse under the weight of such an idiotic and meaningless title?

Thankfully, Mausner and Kaufman proved more than equal to the challenge, cooking up a story about a young girl who lives aboard a yacht — the Strawberry Yacht, so named not only because the girl’s hair is strawberry blonde but also because of her habit of smearing strawberry jam on it. Fed up with spending her life at sea, the girl determines to follow an acting career on land, but a casting agency arranges for her to be shipped to a slave labor diamond mine.

Populated by fun characters, including a jolly life-lesson-dispensing captain and a long-clawed homunculus who represented the young girl’s dark half, it ended up being a supremely silly and often hilarious story. And yet it had some strangely moving moments, moored by cheesy incidental music, the performers’ impressive ability to fake sincerity, and a happily affirmative ending all about following your dreams.

Unfortunately, you’ve missed your chance to catch the instant classic that was The Strawberry Yacht, as a brand new story will be hatched with every performance, depending on the chosen title. But whatever it turns out to be, you’re in safe hands with Mausner and Kaufman, two skilled and naturally funny improvisers. Terrifically entertaining.

About Jim Burke, Special to Montreal Gazette

Theatre writings by Jim Burke, Montreal-based playwright
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