REVIEW: Trainwreck @ Chicago Improv Festival

Patience and Detail.

TrainwreckChicago comedy legends, Dan Bakkedahl and Ed Furman are Trainwreck. They perform a two-man improvised single scene show based off an audience suggestion. There are a number of things one recognizes when watching seasoned improvisers and patience and attention to detail are two of them.

Bakkedahl and Furman start off by asking for a suggestion of a line that “means something to you.” The suggestion given was “I’m looking at the river, but I’m thinking of the sea” and immediately they became two middle aged men fishing off a dock in the great wilderness. One of the number one things you’ll notice about seasoned improvisers, especially in comparison to newbies, is they aren’t afraid to take their time. While I believe patience is a component of both of their individual styles and could possibly be baked into a bit of their form, if there’s one thing these two have on stage, it’s patience.

Patience and secondly, attention to detail. I could watch Dan Bakkedahl bait a fishing pole for hours. Every detail down to the calculated twitch of his fingers and the use of his mouth to bite the line was included. After adding a topper, to switch things up a bit, he had the most natural, rhythmic tick of his wrist – as if the current kept pulling his line away from him. It was like he’d done it a thousand times and every detail of his object work was entirely believable. From an observation perspective, I’d say object work could be considered pretty good if the audience believes the improviser sees what they’re interacting with. However, it’s great when the audience sees what the improviser sees. Sitting in my seat, I saw everything on stage.

Both were men of few words. It felt as if 80% of their conversation were one-liner affirmations of life and lucid philosophies. Simple silences allowed for characters to grow and the landscape to illuminate. This was elaborated upon by Bakkedahl’s line referring to the solitude of the wilderness, “No hustle. No bustle.” to which Furman jumped on without missing a beat and added, “No pussy.”

These two are very real and very grounded. So much so, that 20 minutes into the show Bakkedahl finally called out that he had been fishing the entire time and still hadn’t caught a fish, which provided great delight for the audience. Something I don’t think anyone necessarily remembered to recognize and something that most improvisers would probably not mention.

The thing that surprised me the most, watching Bakkedahl and Furman on stage, is that I realized how much delight I find in watching people actually swallow when they consume food or beverages in improvised scenes. I realized that it rarely happens. Think about it. I know, it makes me sad too. So thank you, Trainwreck, for fulling digesting and consuming the cheap beer you drank Tuesday night.

This art form is a natural fit for Dan Bakkedahl and Ed Furman and, as always, it’s nice to see creatures in their natural habitat.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Reviews

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