Why is this show called improv theater rather than improv comedy?

The Un-Scripted Theater Company has an enthusiastic and impressive business model: Performing together since 2002, the troupe has hit every festival, venue, and host that would have it (even the Red Cross), offers a full gamut of classes (such as "Improvising Arthur Miller"), maintains an outreach program, sells hipster T-shirts, and has collected a pile of press clippings an inch thick. You can even hire the group to perform at your birthday party. The question is, do its improvised performances deliver? The latest, Supertrain, includes all the trappings of a "make-'em-up" show — six cast members in nonthreatening outfits, a smiling man in the corner playing synthesizer, and a red velvet top hat filled with audience suggestions (the 10-year-olds up front found it endlessly hilarious to write "fat men jello wrestling"). What's not so typical is that the company insists its product is improv theater rather than improv comedy — which might explain why there are long segments that drag and are not funny. While actor Derek Cochran is talented enough to have a show built around him, other performers lethargically push the plot along, too timid to accept proffered story suggestions. But though the evening isn't the laugh fest you might expect, on the night I attended the cast skillfully tied up a multilayered plot into a satisfying finale that gave validity to Un-Scripted's motto: "We've been rehearsing to tell good stories." Nathaniel Eaton


Through Oct. 28 at the San Francisco Playhouse, 533 Sutter (between Mason and Powell), S.F. Tickets are $10-15; call 869-5384 or visit

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