If you have never played Cards Against Humanity, the self-described party game for horrible people, the rules of play are straightforward: “Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.” Taking these question-answer combinations as prompts for scenes of improv comedy might seem like a simplistic formula, but the result is the funniest adaptation of a party game since the movie Clue.
Witty Hosts Sets the Tone for the Evening
Shepherding the performance along are Cards Against Humanity Events Manager Trin Garritano and guest hostess Dixie Lynn Cartwright, a star of Chicago’s drag queen scene. The two women’s wit and chemistry put the audience in just the right frame of mind for a night of laughter, be it knowing, uncomfortable, outrageous, or just plain uproarious.
As a special treat, Cartwright brought along her castmates from Other Theatre’s holiday musical Barney the Elf (also at the Greenhouse) to perform a number as an opener for the main event. An exuberant parody of the song “Loathing” from Wicked with a decidedly queer twist, it broke the ice and made a fun jumping-off point. Furthermore, Cartwright’s bone-dry bon mots and her co-host’s good-natured ribbing of selected audience suggestions did wonders to keep the show rolling along between sketches and make us feel involved.
Grade A, Unfiltered Ad Lib
The cast is comprised of the Cards Against Humanity writers and a team of improvisers. Merely hearing them read their chosen white-card answers to a black-card question was amusing, but once they hop to the stage and start acting, the fun really began.
From the opening sketch, inspired by completing the sentence “It’s a shame kids these days are getting into _______” with the phrase “waiting for marriage,” the performers engaged us with off-the-wall humor, uninhibited creativity, and goofy charm. Their chops in crafting a scene from a single sentence—be it absurd, satirical, or profane—put them on a level with the good folks down at Second City and iO. Most impressive, they cooperated beautifully to develop these ideas in a variety of unexpected, viscerally affecting, and above all entertaining directions.
For those familiar with Cards Against Humanity, it will come as no great surprise to learn that many of these directions were a tad off-color, to put it delicately. Jokes about masturbation, parricide, and projectile menstruation are just the tip of the iceberg. Yet for all the profanity, all the sexual and scatological references, the cast never punched down, reserving the cutting edge of their humor for the powerful, the privileged, and the hypocritical. If with great power comes great responsibility, then the same is true of great improv.
Photos by Stephen Voss and Carin Silkaitis.
About the Author:
Harold Jaffe is a poet, playwright, amateur trapeze artist, freelance greeting card designer, and now, unexpectedly, a theater critic. He earned a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Olin College and since returning to Chicago has worked extensively with Cave Painting Theater Company and the late great Oracle Productions. His chapbook Perpetual Emotion Machine is now available at Women & Children First, and his reviews of shows around town are available right here.