Know/OTRimprovâ€™s Naughty List is Anything But Ho-Ho-Hum for the Holidays
Review by Sheldon Polonsky of The Naughty List: Know Theatre/OTRimprov
According to the comedy streaming app Laugh.ly, Cincinnati is the United Statesâ€™ least funny city. But whoever compiled list certainly didnâ€™t check it twice, and certainly hasnâ€™t visited one of Cincinnatiâ€™s premier improve troupes, OTRimprov, or its annual hoilday show, The Naughty List, co-produced with the Know Theatre and presented at Arnoldâ€™s Bar and Grill on 8th St. downtown.
If you arenâ€™t familiar with the improv format, think back to the hilarious Drew Carey show, â€œWhoâ€™s Line is It Anywayâ€ from a few years back. In the same vein, The Naughty List is chock full of skits and games all created on the spot based on audience suggestions by the agile and fertile imaginations of the cast (5 of the 7 members of the OTRimprov group on any given night, who include Dave Powell, Mike Hall, Sean P. Metter, Alanna Turner-Palmer, Erin Ward, and Charlie Roetting). The cast is as quick and adept at improvisation as any I have seen and clearly have a love for the art form and great joy in sharing it with the audience and each other. The first half of the show was more standard improv fare with some holiday themed twists, including Mad-libbed letters to Santa, a hilarious guessing game where the CEO of a company had to guess the circumstances of a recent recall (SmartPhones made of Laffy-taffy that cause children to become smart-asses) and a series of sketches growing from one random premise. The second half was a frenetic retelling of a classic holiday movie, in our case â€œHome Aloneâ€ told in Epic Adventure style.
Improv is not easy, and though there are always bumps in the road OTRimprovâ€™s congenial style was always engaging and amusing. Arnoldâ€™s intimate setting is a perfect match for such a production and the audience always feels close to the performers. Plus, you get wonderful comfort food while you enjoy the show. My only quibble about Arnoldâ€™s this time of year was the difficulty maintaining a comfortable temperature. When we came in, the heaters up full blast were a little stifling but when they were turned down later it got very cold insteadâ€“so keep a few layers handy so you can adjust.
My only constructive suggestions for improvement in the show would be that some of the bits ran a little long and started to wear down and get a little repetitiveâ€“maybe present a few more skits or games each a little shorter. Also, I have seen improv troupes sprinkle in a few pre-written skits in between the improvisation to give the audience a breather and guarantee some consistent material in the case of a blander audience. That said, whatever happens, you wonâ€™t be disappointed, as OTRimprov is clearly skilled at their craft. I know the holidays are a busy time but if you want to take a break, be entertained, and are tired of Dickens and Tchaikovsky, give The Naughty List a try. Thereâ€™s no lump of coal here.
The Naughty List is presented Monday through Wednesdays December 12-26. Be aware that language or sexual themes may be inappropriate for younger children. Seating and dinner service is between 6-7 pm, with the show beginning around 7:30. Tickets are available through the Know Theater, http://knowtheatre.com/on-stage/know-other-stage/the-naughty-list/.