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ROGUE REVIEW: ‘A Secret History of the World’

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Reviewing improv comedy is tricky, because each show from the same players is likely going to be completely different. That said, I didn’t much like the Saturday night show featuring long-form improv from the team of Brian Kuwabara and Gabriel McKinney. It just petered out for me. I know I’m not the only person who felt this way: The show actually prompted my only irate phone call of this year’s Rogue from an audience member, this one from someone who considers herself an improv-comedy connoisseur and who was dramatically disappointed.

I’m certainly no connoisseur. And I’d┬álike to give Kuwabara the benefit of the doubt, because I was so impressed with him in last year’s “Poe and Matthews.” He’s a dynamic presence on stage, and he has a great way of portraying wacky characters without overacting — something that takes quite the touch.

McKinney is appealing, too, especially when this show meandered into a few minutes of him portraying the Marlboro Man. But even with a clever connected narrative involving the Jurassic era and a 1990s coffee bar, the mild laughs came more as an acknowledgement of that cleverness and less because jokes were actually funny. Any performance — improv or not — starts out with a certain amount of audience goodwill, and this one started losing it a quarter of a way through. I’ll be optimistic and hope that remaining shows manage to click better.

Show info: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, Dianna’s. Rating: PG-13. [Details]

Responses to "ROGUE REVIEW: ‘A Secret History of the World’"

DV says:

I didn’t see the same show as you; I saw them on Sunday and had the odd experience of enjoying a show and being disappointed at the same time. I enjoyed it because I found both performers extremely likeable. They clearly have some comic talent, but there’s something off-putting about the premise of the show. They pull a couple of suggestions out of a cauldron, and here’s where the title comes in — the part about not knowing anything about history. This lets them off the hook, but then — what’s the point? The era suggested was the opium wars — which they clearly didn’t know anything about, so they brushed it off — and something about Shakespeare. They didn’t know when Shakespeare lived or anything about him, apparently. Again, that’s the premise. Okay. But that leaves nothing but their charm, which is considerable. The show was kind of bad and good at the same time. I was left wishing that they were — I don’t know — smarter.

Anthony Taylor says:

I saw the same show as you Donald, but had a happier experience. I found the artifice of finding a theatrical way to present improv in a Fringe festival format really interesting. I also found their play, from an improv point of view, to be deft and entertaining.I can understand the meandering feel to some of those scenes, but I always felt they found a way out of them and into something new.What I love most about watching good improv is seeing how the performers both set up obstacles for themselves and then overcome them. That may be why I’m more forgiving of a long scene here or there.I thought the use of music tracks was used very well to provide transitions and context for the next scene. And the wrap up at the end of that specific show where we see how they managed to tie up most loose ends in a single story line was well done too.I think the best improv comes in seeing the relationships between the characters first and the comedy coming out of that. And I felt, for a great deal of their show, A Secret History of the World did that.

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