Virginia Jack is a comedy improv play crafted by the company of the same name. On Friday, September 7, during their 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival opening night show, improv comedians Briana Rayner and Shawn Norman created a one-act play on the spot. I was there, along with a handful of others, to witness and judge.
Creating an entire play based on an audience-suggested location is incredibly ambitious, and both Rayner and Norman seem to be quite skilled. However, I really felt like the show could have used more energy and enthusiasm from the players. Much of the dialogue (particularly during the last half) was meandering, and the plot points and character elements often felt “played out” or cliché.
The description for Virginia Jack cites “arthouse cinema” as an inspiration for this show, and describes it as “fantastically bizarre.” This feels misleading. The LGBTQ tag also seems slightly beguiling.
Yes, this show garnered a few authentic laughs, but I was expecting something more zany. The set was simple (two chairs and a black stage), but I’m thinking that the actors could have drawn some inspiration from a few props. Perhaps they were disappointed by the small crowd size. (And the audience-suggested locales definitely lacked imagination.)
It is worth noting that, this year, Norman was replacing Virginia Jack founding member Nicole Passmore. I wonder how much experience Rayner and Norman have playing off of each other. All that said, this was my first live improv comedy show. Perhaps all of the above is just part of the improv experience. Please chime in if you have a differing (or similar) perspective. I love a good argument.
Virginia Jack is playing at the False Creek Gym 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Reija Jean
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