Geneseo improv troupe Currently Known As performed a show for students in Wadsworth Hall on Friday Nov. 22. Unlike the group’s usual shows, this performance had a murder mystery premise. As anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the group perform knows, CKA usually starts off with a fairly routine set of sketches. Each sketch lasts five to 10 minutes and moves along at a very quick pace. “Murder Mystery” began with some typical free-form improv. Soon afterward, the actors dove into the main sketch.
The premise of the sketch was set up based on audience suggestions for the setting and nature of the murder. The audience decided that the deed was to be done in a rain forest during the Jurassic era. This led the actors through a hilarious storyline in which rival groups of cavemen and dinosaurs schemed to kill one another.
The plot thickened when a romance bloomed between a caveman, Oog, and a dinosaur, Theodore. What was especially comical about this sketch was that the dinosaurs were all very sophisticated and well-educated, while the humans were generic, barbaric cavemen. The scenes generally focused on two actors at a time and ended when another actor would run onto the stage.
The audience also decided the character that was to be murdered. Each member of the audience clapped for whichever character he or she wanted killed off––whoever received the loudest applause was assigned the role of victim. Then, offstage, the actors decided on who the murderer would be. The audience members were then tasked with deciding who they thought it was. They learned if they had guessed right at the end of the sketch.
This form of improv was extremely different compared to the usual sketches. It was one sketch that was over an hour long, rather than multiple short sketches. While this made for a much more developed storyline with some surprising twists, it did lose steam in parts. The actors had to balance creating a clear plot with keeping things funny and interesting. Unfortunately, at points it felt as though the humor was lost as the actors temporarily focused on resolving the conflict.
This long, involved sketch also allowed for a clearer look into how the actors keep an improv moving––they would usually just go with whatever their fellow actors suggested. They valued following along the current of the story over trying to have it make sense, which is what makes improv in general so entertaining to watch. Within this difficult branch of comedic acting, it’s expected that there will be some flops and inconsistencies, many of which the actors actually acknowledged and played off.
CKA put on an overall great show. Each actor fully committed to the ridiculousness and confusion that often takes over during improv performances. This “go-with-the-flow” attitude was welcome considering the length and involvement of the murder mystery plot.
While the usual short sketches are a bit more fast-paced and high-energy, it was interesting to see the troupe explore something out of the ordinary.