christian capozzoli, kayla lorette
mike fly, michal grajewski
One of the best things about living in Toronto is that some of Canada’s most talented and wondrous improvisers live here and work here. Of course, there are pockets of them all over (with a particularly saturated one in that magical city of Edmonton); but we have quite the comedian corps here in Toronto and our comedy scene is currently flourishing so it is a particularly exciting time to be standing in the midst of it gazing around in awe. So, for this reason, when the brilliant and distinguished Christian Capozzoli of New York’s illustrious Improv troupe 4track, about which Time Out New York said, “some people are just funnier than others and the energetic, commited play of these Magnet Theater veterans has earned them a loyal fan base,” comes to town, there are Canadian friends who are able to help showcase the improvisational format that he and his troupe have cultivated in New York City.
It was in this way that 4Track came to the Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto last Friday evening boasting of the supreme talents of Capozzoli joined by the delicious trio of Kayla Lorette, Mike Fly and Michal Grajewski. I need to tell you right off the bat, my friends, that it was some kind of wonderful.
The premise of 4Track is really one that needs to be seen in order to be properly understood, but it centers on the idea of all four improvisers working very closely with one another, as an intricately woven machine, all feeding off each other’s energy, momentum and inspiration. Especially at the beginning of the set the improvisers mirror each other’s movements, and their physicality, sometimes even their vocal rhythms and intonations. They often begin speaking overtop of one another, and yet it is incredible how finely tuned their listening skills are, as they remain continually aware of everything that is occurring onstage, even if it is all happening in a frenzy all at once. It reminds me of that mirror exercise that most students have the opportunity to explore in any sort of structured drama school, camp or class, whereby partners try to move slowly in tandem with one another, keeping strict eye contact, so that the audience is unable to differentiate the person leading from the person following. 4track’s concept is similar, as new ideas are adopted and appropriated so quickly into the fray that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint which from which individual what element has come.
Out of this sort of frothy stew of energy, momentum and inspiration, a scene slowly emerges, like a mythic being rising from the mud, and the four improvisers are already moving as one unit, thinking as an entity and bursting with positivity and the ability to greet every idea with a delighted affirmation. This is the ultimate in trust, the ultimate in faith and the ultimate in joy. The first scene to emerge was quite abstract and melded into a far more linear scene about a couple, played by Capozzoli and Lorette, on a flight to an all inclusive resort and Capozzoli’s character was already laden with ailments, while Lorette’s character was paranoid that she was beginning to lose her looks and fearing that her husband would meet a younger woman who would be able to seduce him on the beach. Like in the Jack and Margaret scenes from the earlier Troubadour show, Capozzoli and Lorette were able to create a lovely balance between evoking humour while also being truthful to their emotions and allowing for the potential for tragic moments to coincide with the funny ones, along with poetic imagery, such as a vacationing couple being compared to a baseball thrown into another yard, suddenly unsure of who they are and what rules apply in this new place.
Grajewski and Fly joined Lorette and Capozzoli for a fun scene in which three different postal services arrived to deliver packages at the same time, each requiring a more absurd method of confirmation and payment, which turned into a physically mesmerizing scene about the nicest road gang in Wichita, the Road Devils, where Capozzoli and Lorette created different aspects of the cars, while Fly and Grajewski talked shop, during which Michal Grajewski even managed to slip in a Kevin Sorbo reference. Lorette and Capozzoli then became a couple traveling in a pintsized smart car, and showed off some more physical theatre prowess by miming not only how they sat squashed up inside the car, but also in how they happened out and then into it.
Lorette was at her most earnest in a scene about two middle aged siblings realizing that their parents are beginning to lose their grips on reality and that they may have to consider putting them in a senior citizen’s home. It is always so fascinating and exciting to me to watch improvisers grapple with real weighty issues in their sets, and Lorette does so with great integrity and empathy. During these scenes it becomes more and more apparent that in the darkest crevices and the shadows of even the saddest situation is a seed for laughter, and these four performers are masters at tending this seed and allowing it to grow, not to overshadow the intensity of the story they are telling, but to sit alongside it and remind us that the light exists.
The most magical moments of the evening was watching the four of them play an imaginary game of Trivial Pursuit, in all the detail of a precocious child’s tea party. The fact that they were able to conduct the imaginary business of the game, while perpetuating a conversation, was particularly impressive to me and I felt almost as though if I focused ardently enough of it, that suddenly the game would spontaneously emerge before my eyes. There was also an exciting scientific breakthrough, which was foiled when a member of the audience’s cell phone rang, which was quickly adopted into the scene and resulted in everyone meeting a very grisly end.
The basic scenes were then all briefly revisited, often in an ironic or referential context, to give some sort of closure or hint toward a next chapter to the characters, as the pace of the scenes and the energy of the performers accelerated once again. This went on until there was one final short scene with the pith and profundity needed to nicely wrap up the evening and leave the audience feeling warmly fulfilled and wholly satisfied.
Capozzoli works seamlessly with Grajewski, Fly and Lorette and they capture, I think, the essence of 4track’s style really well because along with being strong improvisers with sharp instincts, hardened funny bones and the ability to connect with their hearts, they also have a tight rapport with one another, which allows for certain moments to be almost psychic in nature and gives the audience certainty from the very first scene that they are in for a momentous treat.
If you find yourself in New York on a Saturday night, I highly recommend that you check out 4track, whose New York City cast features Christian Capozzoli, Frank Campanella, George Basil and Matt Evans. Shows are at 9pm at the Magnet Theatre, which is at 254 West 29th Street (near 8th Avenue). For tickets or more information please call 212.244.8824 or visit this website. Reservations are strongly recommended (this show is THAT popular!).