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PERFORMANCE REVIEW

The Raging Chinchilla Show

Help, help! We're laughing ourselves to death!

By Suki Dorfman

Roadkill Buffet

Little Kresge Theater

Friday, October 26,2001

The Raging Chinchilla claimed its newest victims. An entire audience in Little Kresge succumbed to uncontrollable laughter caused by the antics of MIT’s improv troupe, Roadkill Buffet, last Friday night.

As in the show, Whose Line is it Anyway?, Roadkill performs improvisational comedy. Each show is unscripted, requiring the “Roadkillians” to create hilariously witty scenes without planning. The audience members scream out theme ideas, and these actors take one and go. Without skilled actors, the result will usually be long pauses and little fun. However, Roadkillians have skill.

The troupe opened the evening with a story. None of the Roadkillians knew it, so the audience provided a beginning and an end. One by one, players filled in the gaps with spontaneously crafted sentences. By the end, a strange and funny tale of an excited three-year old, his/her parent, and “hundreds of twisty passages” through the mountains unfolded, concluding with the statement, “Some people annoy the hell out of me.” It was odd, creative, and just a beginning.

We saw an expert in “quantum muffins” and her translator on a pastry talk show. It is hard to get into the quantum muffin business, they told us, because once you know where your shop will be, you can never know how fast the business will come. A three-headed Buddha answered questions, with each Roadkillian head speaking a word at a time. Pairs consisting of a doctor and her patient, soul mates, and a rich girl and her butler constructed parallel stories working from overlapping lines. A college girl frantically tried to do her laundry while two other students prevented her by using everything from a new MIT law against laundry to changed laws of physics. Another trio had two players speaking only from lines in the scripts of two random plays.

Two debaters left the theater, only to return after the audience had determined their topic mad-lib style: Should we shrink the wooly population? Other players acted out the topic word by word, as if playing charades, while the debaters talked, watched, and deciphered the hidden topic. After the struggle to show “population” without speaking, one actor responded to an earlier suggested noun, “And you thought ‘kumquat’ would have been hard!”

Roadkill Buffet performed a new opera, The Death of Someone, in a nonsense language. The same expert translator who brought us quantum muffins told us what the actors were singing and doing. Someone won the battle, ate apple pie, and died from three fatal blows: a large rock over the head, a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Julie Andrews singing “The Sound Of Music.”

In “Antifreeze,” an audience member positioned two actors. Different actors took turns pausing the scene, taking the place of an actor, and beginning again with the current poses and plot ideas. The scene morphed from kids stealing the cookies from the cookie jar, through the child’s girlfriend, through the parents, through the 60’s, through marijuana, and back again to the cookie jar to finish. The theater rocked with tearful laughs.

Mid-show, the back row of the theater enthusiastically did a wave. Often the audience laughed so hard that the show paused, waiting for us to calm down.

The finale was a nightmare ... literally. An audience volunteer recalled his day to the troupe. The actors then announced “Roadkill Buffet’s Your Day As A Nightmare,” a hellish story of evil professors, repellent students, and awful taunts from an unfinished problem set.

To make their skits work, the players have to cooperate. They need to be able to take lines from the audience or other Roadkillians and immediately have an interesting reply. There is no time for hesitation. Roadkill practices spontaneity weekly to improve their improv.

In all, Roadkill creates a rollicking good time without a script, and “The Raging Chinchilla Show” was no exception. The Roadkillians have wonderful timing, wit, and humor.