Not sure why it took me four days to post review and commentary on this memorable show. Perhaps writers block or simple tape delay.
It was a pleasure to see 3 FOR ALL in action again. Connecting with the Bay Area improvisation community now reminds me of my early days as a Bay Area visitor and resident. I would often catch a show of the week or other event at BATS Improv with my “original” friend from the Bay Area, the friend who introduced me to many things that are now regular parts of my life. However, that friend has since moved to the Los Angeles area, and I’ve moved on to different focuses in life here, so improv has a certain nostalgia. There is also an undeniable “aww…” yearning feel to it as well. I have always wanted to take one of BATS Improv’s training courses, but, sadly, have yet to find the time and money to officially enroll. I know it is all a matter of perspective and probably could work if I rearranged some things… but it hasn’t happened at this point in time.
3 FOR ALL is a long established improv trio that has been performing since 1996. Rafe Chase and Tim Orr are based in the Bay Area, while Stephen Hearin splits his time between here and Los Angeles.
At the Throckmorton, 3 FOR ALL did not disappoint. It’s interesting that I find it difficult to remember specifics about improv shows, and yet I know that many performers will review their actions and character choices very carefully following their performance. I do know that the 3 FOR ALL trio projects an enviable level of ease and naturalism in their work together and larger stage presence. It was impressive to see how they can continue a storyline that may seem to have nowhere to go. On the other hand, the ensemble, and their lighting designer, will often know when to choose to close a scene.
The creative storytelling was clearly visible in their second act “feature length” scene/skit, Blood on a Pillow – so named by audience voting. We were introduced to a couple (Rafe & Tim) with the wife (Rafe) facing a fatal “nephritis” illness. (The actors used this to indicate nose inflammation; I see upon Googling it that is has a more serious and real life connotation.) Anyway, in the story, the wife wished to adopt a child from the local adoption agency. To complicate matters, the third ensemble member (Stephen) played a dual role of the husband’s old flame and the adoption coordinator, and the adoptee “wild child” who went home with the couple. Complications continued to unravel until the story found an unexpectedly poignant resolution.
The audience in Mill Valley clearly loved what 3 FOR ALL had to offer in this performance, with wide and hearty applause after every act. I certainly appreciated the reminder of improvisation’s value in everyday life. I know it doesn’t have to be (and should not be) just about the laugh – it’s about how it fits into LIFE.