By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Hey, tonight I was in the virtual audience at the Grindstone, i.e. the invisible sweatpants brigade online at home. And I was watching an amazingly dexterous improv duo onstage do, off the cuff, something that is clearly, by every reasonable definition, impossible. Q: Was I hallucinating?
Mark Meer and Ron Pederson, two-thirds of the improv troupe Gordon’s Big Bald Head, did a movie. Really. They improvised an entire movie, in an hour.
Armed only with a title from cinematic history and the description and review provided by Leonard Maltin (of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide fame) — picked randomly by a random member of the live audience at the Grindstone — Meer and Pederson improvised their own version of Gothika. This 2003 pyscho-thriller flop is described by Maltin in his fat reference volume in a number of unflattering ways (as read out by Meer), including the memorable phrase “a snakepit hodgepodge,” not a compliment I reckon. Evidently the set-up involves a shrink in a mental hospital who wakes up to find herself accused of assorted murders. Sounds abysmal. One-and-a-half stars.
Anyhow, Meer and Pederson “did” their own Gothika on a bare stage (save for two boxes ) — with a cross-hatched gallery of lurid characters, a looping narrative, wildly escalating supernatural interventions by assorted monsters, subplots, flashbacks, running gags, action, extravagant physical comedy, pop culture annotations, witty asides (“I’m not just some mixed genre; I’m a human being!” chides one of the principals). And they did it, all this making up of stuff, with a great onward rush, and nary a fumble, a stumble, an awkward hesitation.
If you hadn’t seen the elaborate demonstration of random choice by the audience at the outset, you might suspect it was scripted. In short, for sheer entertainment value, you’d lay down money this improvised Gothika kicks the “real” Gothika‘s butt.
This is beyond quick-witted; you shake your head in amazement. These two are masterful, the best anywhere. And since there are three more performances of Gordon’s Big Bald Head Presents: Good Head — so, three more movies purloined from cinematic history — you shouldn’t miss the chance to treat yourself to something riotous, either live at the theatre (in distanced, masked, sanitized safety) or live streamed at home (with smart camera work). The show runs through Saturday. Tickets: grindstonetheatre.ca