By John David Back
It’s not often that I get to yell “Sex Ed!” and “Butts!” in the middle of Arnold’s’ courtyard. Thanks to the Know Theatre of Cincinnati and OTRimprov’s opening night performance of The Naughty List, though, I got to do just that.
For the uninitiated, ‘improv’ comes from the English word improvisation, which basically means it’s a show where audience members get to interact with performers and not get ejected with no refund. This was my first improv show in Cincinnati, and I had a great time (and I was completely sober!)
The Naughty List, which is more or less a Christmas-themed performance, featured five improv actors and most of the people sitting on Arnold’s covered courtyard. Dinner service was until 7:30pm, at which time the waitstaff promptly stopped bringing out fried green tomatoes and Rhinegeist Truth and we settled in for the show. Anything you ordered too late would come during intermission, which was at about 8:30pm.
The show revolved around different loosely scripted skits. For example, in one session, OTRimprov member Sean Mette played Santa reading children’s letters dictated by the other cast members. Like a mad lib, as the letter is dictated, when one of the cast makes a circle with their hand, you shout out something that fits. Favorite movie (Fargo!). Our family pet (Cheetah!) Class in school (my time to shine: Sex Ed). Etc. These sorts of moments were far and away the most engaging and hilarious of the show.
I want to give a post-show in-writing round of applause to Erin Ward, who largely stole the show after the intermission. Her portrayal of some kind of British elf-minion in the Epic Adventure retelling of Die Hard had me snorting coffee out of my nose. She has a sharp wit, goes with the show’s unknown flow easily, and was subtly funny at every turn. She alone made it worth it despite them being sold out of deep-fried pretzels.
Overall, despite having anxiety about seeing an unscripted show, I was pleasantly surprised. Very few times were the only ones laughing the cast, and more times than not women were cackling in the audience and men were guffawing. I live three blocks from Below Zero, where OTRimprov performs on Saturday nights; I ought to make an effort to check one of those performances out, too.
Grab a few friends or your main squeeze and get tickets to the show here. Get there early, have some dinner, some drinks, and be ready to yell inappropriate things at the dinner table.
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to email@example.com.