In Between The Lines used the format of musicals as their romping ground in “The Musical Show,” which played on Friday and Saturday in Drama House.
As with all of IBTL’s shows, everything (in this case, the lyrics, story, and character) was made up on the spot, but the music itself was written by senior Carter Letsky, who accompanied the performers on piano (and chose when to use which songs on the fly).
Group members began the Friday’s show by asking the audience to give them a location. A laundromat was settled on, and they were off. They determined the story would be set in 1999, which led immediately to an intro about a turn-of-the-millenium-fashion fad. “Our pants have holes / Our shirts have holes / The thing that needs washing / is all of our souls,” the players sang in an opening number that has been playing on repeat in my head for about 41 hours now.
The opening number was appropriate, because while a minute seldom passed without an embarrassingly alto giggle on my part, I felt the need for a bit of a soul-washing as I left Drama House.
The average IBTL show is comprised of many small, bizarre scenes. If any of the scenes start to head into uncomfortable territory — voila — the scene is terminated and a brand new one begins, with new characters, setting, and themes. But this show stuck with one storyline, so anyone who didn’t like the direction things were heading just had to get used to it.
And there were some tough pills to swallow in this one. A storyline about competing fourth grade proms dealt with whacked-up masculinity in an uncomfortable (and very funny) way. But I can’t really blame IBTL for the direction its performances go — the danger of an unscripted performance is half the appeal of an improv show, and the absolutely fearless attitude with which IBTL plunged into its own sick, seat-of-their-pants storyline was admirable. And I laughed a lot, so what am I even complaining about.
Needless to say, the type of humor in this show was quite different than in IBTL’s past shows, which took more of a relentlessly the-nuttier-the-better approach. The best bits of this show were character-based, an impressive quality for a show made up as it goes along. A horrifyingly bad relationship between an uber-masculine father and his timid, 18-year-old son was wonderful — one of the funniest moments of the night was simply the father eating, chewing as he stared his son down. Several scenes involving two different social studies teachers were also remarkable in their commitment to character.
I laughed a lot during this show, but what has stuck with me in the days since is the honest character work that the performers put into it.