| By Rod Thorell |
When was the last time you actually LOL’d IRL? (You know, Laughed Out Loud In Real Life?)
I mean a full-body belly laugh that takes you over and pushes out all the stress of your week.
As I get older, I find myself getting grumpier and grumpier. Seeking relief from this malady by going to a comedy show at a big, swanky theater would involve parting ways with more money than I care to think about. And I have now binge-watched every stand-up special on Netflix.
So, in desperate need of some original ways to bring the chuckles, I found a place right in the heart of Clermont for just five bucks a ticket: The Maniacs are an improv troupe who perform monthly on the second stage at Moonlight Players Theatre,735 W Minneola Ave. in Downtown Clermont.
My wife, Donna, and I attended in April and May, and the performers engaged the crowd and each other in a high-energy night that left us wanting more.
But first, some of you may be wondering, “What is improv?”
If you have seen the TV show Whose Line is it Anyway, you have the idea. If you haven’t, don’t Google it! Go and be surprised by a hilarious collection of situations and characters.
Describing the event does not do it justice (but I’m gonna do it anyway, because otherwise this is a really short piece).
The Moonlight Players Theater is set up as a traditional theater, with the audience seated in rising rows. Below you is a bare stage, dressed only with a few chairs for the actors of the evening and a picture of their spiritual leader, Bob Improv. (You can obtain Bob’s more or less daily “wisdom” on Facebook here.)
One performer acts as a host, announces the participating actors and tells everyone the guidelines for each scene, which they call “games.”
One of the hallmarks of improv is the lack of a script. The only limit is the imagination of the performers.’
This group clearly has a broad imagination. Among the games I witnessed were:
- A little piece with a family dinner (a Hanukkah dinner that included imitation Kosher shrimp and was interrupted by a squirrel)
- A snippet of music (made on the spot, about the fourth row’s sobriety)
- And a bit that began with a near-fatal injury to an imaginary class gerbil and ended in a bowling alley. (Note: No actual animals were harmed during the course of the evening).
And there were juice boxes sporadically thrown into the audience. Part of the enjoyment here is not looking for the punch line, just going along for the ride.
The audience participates, aside from (hopefully) catching free juice boxes, by helping the evening’s host set up the scenarios for each game.
You may be called upon to give your favorite movie, a short statement or “a place where you would not want to spend summer vacation.”
It works best when audience members go for the mundane and require the performers to engage their creativity. A keyboard backs the performers to provide mood music for the scenes, and to support games such as “Sounds like a Song,” during which the host interrupts a scene and tells them that the last phrase spoken “sounds like a song.”
In response, the actors have to make an original song on the spot with the keyboard surprising them by playing a couple bars of intro to indicate whether it is a jazz ballad, hip hop rap or a peppy show tune.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and briefly breaks after the first hour. Snacks (popcorn! candy!) and drinks (wine! beer! soda!) are available before the show and during intermission for donations. Tip: Bring cash. (They take cards, too, but have a minimum fee.)
Be aware that the show is advertised as PG-13, the performers are all grownups and they occasionally develop some themes that aren’t suitable for the younger ones. During setup of a game, someone in the crowd may suggest a random body part that you weren’t expecting, but it’s not likely to be an unbroken string of vulgarity that would offend most adults.
Honestly, we wish this were available more than the once a month it is scheduled. We hope to see you there during one of their upcoming events:
- 6 p.m. Sun., June 3 – Participation Night – Free show where anyone who attends can choose to be part of the craziness on stage
- 8 p.m. Fri., July 6 – Next regular show
For a more family friendly event, you can see the Lunatics; the performing improv troupe of students age 12-18 hold free monthly shows.
The Main Stage also features a number of plays throughout the year, including original local productions.
But if you want a guaranteed LOL IRL, you know which one to check out first.
Grumpydad (Rod Thorell) and the love of his life, Donna, relocated to Clermont in 2015, where he works from home helping create software. You can follow his misadventures on Instagram, @grumpydad_goes_to.