Alternative Comedy Theate: The Victims — Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

The Victims and friends show how improv comedy is done at Out of the Loop.

published Sunday, March 8, 2015

Addison — The lovely folks at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival reserve seats for the press with excellent sightlines. The problem is that it gives improvisational comedians a direct line of sight and quick access to the reporter, which is often too much to resist.Early on at the Alternative Comedy Theater’s hour on Friday, Jeff Swearingen of The Victims ensemble appropriated my note-taking tools, stating that he was scrawling “Jeff Swearingen is the world’s greatest actor” on my pad. Problem is; he may be right. Swearingen’s fearlessness and love of the plausibly absurd lights up this troupe. He’s impossible not to watch.

Opening the ACT hour was the Bandwreckers, who had the unfortunate task of warming up an audience that had just spent 10 minutes waiting in the winter cold to enter the Stone Cottage theater. But the troupe’s women are resilient and enterprising.

From the audience suggestions of “barn” and “computer,” the Bandwreckers spun up a love triangle all bound up in social media. The betrayal among the circle of women having a retreat in a barn went strangely without much reaction. As usual with this troupe, the characters are instantly strong, but the laugh lines a bit lacking.

The VictimsThe Victims are a slow burn, starting solid and building to something just short of mayhem. Their improv format interviewed an audience “volunteer” and used the material to construct a long-form sketch. Friday’s volunteer, Patty, was not too forthcoming, but they ran with it.

It was a scramble at first, working plot ideas like slacker Christmas tree salesmen grousing about winter weather and dreaming of being alligator farmers in Florida. Once the tall B.K. and the small Swearingen started interacting, it didn’t matter what the plot became (something about the Louisiana Purchase). It was really all about vexing Swearingen. B.K. kept delivering his lines by walking behind Swearingen, sending him into inspired bouts of profanity-laced protests. The interplay was Fred and Ginger crossed with Mutt and Jeff.

At one point, John Rawley and Swearingen portrayed ex-lovers with word play that was just as graceful and dastardly funny. Swearingen played a character who had surgery to make himself look like a ‘80s he-man action figure with “80s he-man nipples.” He niftily puffed his body language to look all bulked up. With the hirsute Rawley in the female role, Swearingen enthusiastically nuzzled her/his neck fur and exclaimed “She doesn’t like it when you play with her beard.”

Alternative Comedy Theater performs again next weekend with the Mash ‘em Ups.


Remaining performances:

  • 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 13
  • 5 p.m. Saturday, March 14

View complete Out of the Loop Fringe Festival here

Thanks For Reading

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