Feb 2, 2009

Action & Adventure

Last night I attended the first episode of the fourth season of Fall of the House, a serialized, largely improvised live sitcom by the Action/Adventure Theatre, a young company of twentysomethings who comprise a "not-for-profit Portland-based performance collective that collaborates and experiments with local artists of varied disciplines and actively engages and cultivates a new audience base. [They] strive to broaden Portland's supportive artistic network and create work that is inspiring, relevant, and speaks to the universal and the local experience." Lofty. However, they are on to something. Mining the foibles and pratfalls of their own experiences, Fall of the House is about People Like Us, or rather, Portlanders Like Us. A Reality Bites for the Rose City set, it takes place in a House in Portland, or rather one of the many nondescript SE/NE abodes that house five or more unmarried beings and some quantity of substance waiting to be abused, and it stars a revolving roster of any of the nondescript people I went to college with or who work at the bad restaurants around town and have no idea what they are doing with their lives. Indeed, Fall of the House is remarkable in its ability to be about totally unremarkable people in unremarkable situations, and be totally captivating for its specificity. It perfectly captures a slice of Portland culture. The characters and their situations are sometimes really annoying, but they are relatable, and it makes you want to see how they will further screw up or complicate their lives - like a good sitcom should.

Each season of Fall of the House unfolds over four weekends, with each episode performed each night of a weekend. An episode has predetermined plot points and scenes that the actors must go through over the course of the hour-ish show, and presumably they have rehearsed these to a certain extent, but none of the dialogue is scripted per se. It is apparent, however, that certain lines are not off-the-cuff, that the actors have mined them ahead of time for laughs. This makes me want the whole thing essentially scripted, because the funny/well-timed bits are just so much better than the clearly moving-the-plot-along bits. Why not rehearse a few times totally improved, put what works best into a working script, and still leave room for improved funnies if they naturally occur and to accommodate current events? However, I respect the timely-ness of their method, it's like a blog, quick and dirty. It feels relevant to me, as well, like the dramatic medium of the Internet Generation. The inarticulate nature of improvised speech combined with the mundanity of the subject matter shouldn't work, but it is how people talk and live.

Here are photos from last season, taken by Yolanda Suarez:

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