Monday, August 12, 2013

Jet City's 'Men of Action' is Good Clean Fun

The cast of "Men of Action" Photo: Mike Christensen
Improv is one of those forms of theatre that either you love or hate it. Almost everyone has seen a show of improv games or at least have seen an episode of TV’s “Whose Line is it Anyway.” However, did you know that some groups actually perform unwritten and unscripted full-length productions? Jet City Improv is currently presenting their “second” world premiere of “Men of Action” which had its first go around in 2010.

“Men of Action” is inspired by such films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Man Who Would be King” which features the adventures of the “world’s sixth-best adventurers.” While Jet City provides a new show and storyline for each performance, some things do stay the same throughout the run. Each show features two old-time explorers, Paul Newcastle (Erin Plischke) and David Duffy (Dusty Lee), reminiscing about their previous adventures. As they tell their tale, Jon Axell and Jeremy Brown act out the story with the help of Phoebe Richards, as their cohort, Emma Brightwood. The only “scripted” part of the show is the fight scenes, something that has to be timed right or someone is going to get hurt! Together, the fivesome do a great job of presenting the basic story, but it is the ensemble cast that really adds color. The people responsible for this are Phill Arensberg, Jeannine Clarke, Graham Downing, Margaret Erickson, Jen  Rizor and Dan Zertuche. Trent Walkiewicsz operates as a sound effect wizard (it’s amazing what you can do with old water bottles) and perhaps the most valuable player of all is Ian Gerrard. Dressed in all black, he is considered the entire stage crew with a specialty for special effects. (You will have to see it to believe it.)

"I want audiences to feel like they just encountered something like a carnival ride" says Mike Christensen, the creator and director of the show. "The actors will be surprising each-other at every turn with plot twists, secret motives, action sequences, and outlandish characters. All of the surprises that come with improv really fit this style of classic adventure tales. The actors are feeling a thrill, and I think the audience will as well."

On opening night, the performance started on a somewhat rocky start. Newcastle and Duffy began the show with the ending of a previous adventure of the two. The result was a scene of chaos and played out more like theatre of the absurd than improv comedy. Fortunately, the show re-set itself and we were in for a new adventure from the very beginning. A willing participant from the audience went up to draw a slip of paper with the name of a precious artifact on it. In this case, it was a jewel. They also picked another slip of paper that described the artifact. Here, it was “clarity.” They then picked a location where this artifact would be found. So, this story had the trio traveling to Africa to bring back the jewel of clarity. The end result is a hilarious adventure told in two acts that is actually appropriate for the whole family. (That’s not to say that every Jet City performance is family-friendly, but “Men of Action” is geared for all ages.)

One of the major rules of improv is to just go with whatever set up you are given, and that’s exactly what the Jet City crew does. Surprisingly, the story, though fractured, has all the elements of a real play with a beginning, middle and end. Another thing this play has that others don’t – a full bar in the back! They also sell soft drinks, candy and popcorn that you can enjoy during the show. (You don’t get to do THAT at the 5th Avenue!)

“Men of Action” plays Thursdays and Fridays, at 8:00 p.m. until August 23rd and then is up and running again from September 5-20. The theatre (now with air conditioning) is located at 5510 University Way in Seattle. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students/seniors/military, plus discounts can sometimes be found on their website. Parking can be chore, but there is free parking to be had, so be sure to come early.

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