Ripped From the News
Also see Richard's recent review of Born Yesterday
The Magic Theatre, San Francisco’s premiere home for new plays, closes its 34th season with the World Premiere of True Fiction Magazine’s Ripped from the News. True Fiction Magazine is a veteran San Francisco improv troupe who have been together since 1988. The company of three females and two males specializes in weaving complete and totally improvisational two act plays. They have performed over 5,000 different plays to date. Audience members peruse newspaper clippings and pages that are in the lobby of the Magic before entering the theater. These clippings are then put up on four wooden square polls that are on each corner of the small center stage. The audience sits on all four sides while the troupe acts out an improv play. The five cast members look briefly at the clippings before the play starts and they select two or three of the news items. They then build a complete two act play around these items. It takes a lot of chutzpah for these actors to present a complete and comprehensive play.
Ripped is most difficult to review since every night there is a different play. I would imagine that sometimes the presentations are successful while other nights they are not as fortunate. On opening night, things fell somewhere in between. It would be pointless of me to retrace the convoluted plot of the two act play. The plot centered around two news items that were taken from the wooden post. One involved a strange newspaper item from the San Francisco Chronicle about a husband in Maryland purchasing some Chinese walking fish for his wife who was very ill. Apparently these fish when boiled were a good cure for his wife’s illness. The article went on to state that two years later, the authorities found a pond full of these fish near the husband’s residence. The other news item related to a New York Times article about a rumor that the United States government was working on a virus that could be dropped on the enemy in case of war. These two stories were intertwined in the first act of the play. The group also threw in for good measure a little side skit about two seagulls attacking an old age pensioner with two of the troupe acting like sea gulls attacking a male member. This was not funny and they soon dropped that little shtick.
The second act contained yet a third item involving a meeting of WorldCom employees who were told that they would get double the pay instead of a pension plan. This particular segment did not go over very well and it was soon abandoned and the actors continued with the two original stories. There were many times when the group padded scenes much too long and went off onto complete separate tangents. Some of the scenes were downright juvenile, while others were clever and sharp. They were not consistently funny on opening night.
The ensemble consists of Paul Killam, the founding member of True Fiction, Craig Neibaur, Diane Rachel, Regina Saisi and Barbara Scott. Each performed their various roles with remarkable disciplined fashion. They showed exceptional ease together and they were able to slip into various characters immediately. Joshua Raoul Brody provided indispensable accompaniment on the keyboards.
Ripped from the News plays through July 28 the Magic Theatre, North side in San Francisco. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheare.org.