Saturday, February 10, 2024

"Improvised Love is Blind" at Strike Theater

I don't get to Strike Theater, our Northeast Minneapolis home for sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word, nearly as often as I would like. But with zero traditional theater shows opening this weekend (in advance of the storm that is late February), I was able to check out Improvised Love is Blind: Season 2. Apparently it's based on a Netflix dating show, which I've never watched or even heard of, so I might have missed some of the references (what are pods?). But the general concept is clear - one of those contrived dating pool situations, with lots of drama and mayhem. They're running it this weekend like episodes of a TV series, and I saw the second episode - after the pairing in the pods, and before the weddings. It would be fun to see all three shows, but even one is a fun evening. The finale is tonight, but last night was over sold out (perhaps the fullest I've ever seen Strike Theater), so get your tickets soon if you're interested! Otherwise check out Strike's website for upcoming shows, including a return of the laughing-through-grief show Wish You Were Here in March. I'm also hoping my favorite - Improvised Bake-Off - will return this year. But there are plenty of shows to choose from in the meantime, as well as classes for those interested in learning how to do improv and storytelling.

The show began (about 15 minutes late due to the long line, which required bringing in extra chairs) with a recap of the last "episode." Three couples got engaged without ever seeing each other (hence the title), and this episode focuses on their vacation to Iceland (from an audience prompt). We see scenes of each couple as they profess their great love to each other, and then hop on a stool for a confessional in which they admit their doubts to the audience. It's a funny contradiction, well executed by the cast and aided by lighting changes (Danna Sheridan in the tech booth, co-producer with Michael DallaValle). We can see them performing for the camera and each other, contrasted to their real thoughts and feelings (as much as these people have real thoughts and feelings). We also get to see the couples go on adventures with the local staff, and participate in some group scenes, couples mingling with other couples, and unexpected attractions.

Did I mentioned this was improvised? The talented cast (Ryan Blix, Rita Boersma, Aaron Cook, Robbie Darling, Laura Hild, Erik Hoversten, Danielle Lynch, Shelby Schroeder, and Olivia Wulf) is creating these characters and relationships before our eyes, in this case over the course of three days. Sometimes it's hard to believe it's not scripted because it flows so well, although we get into some wacky situations so we know it's improv. I imagine the original show is unintentionally funny, but this version is intentionally funny, as they make fun of and exaggerate all those dating show tropes.

I might have to check out a few episodes of Love is Blind on Netflix, just to see how it compares to the show (I probably won't be able to stomach more than that). But I'll definitely be following Improvised Love is Blind on Instagram to find out who says "I Do" at the altar tonight. You can watch the finale live at Strike Theater tonight. Other ways to support Strike are to attend their "Fancy Pants Gala" on Friday, which includes an improvised episode of Frasier, as well as fancy food and drinks, or buy this cute shirt in their fundraising campaign.