Why are these eight overgrown marionettes caught here immobilized, and looking at you like you just threatened to blow up City Hall? Because you are (however inadvertently) threatening to blow up their explosively clever new show, at this very moment. For as you peruse these very lines, they are forced to stand by in suspended animation, waiting for your cue to move. So don't be shy; start yelling out at them your shoesize, your pet peeve, your oatmeal brand. The Next Move, Boston's latest entry in the improvisational theater, can't go on without you.
Improvised entirely from audience suggestion, the Next Move Review is, what they call in the business, more than a show. In fact, it is more than two shows, and even more than three. It is a different show every night it plays. The rotating cast members are all thirty-ish people-next-door types--versatile, and stocked with every improvisational trick in the book. One night last week, the actress near the top of the pile played, among other things, Liv Ullman, a second-grade teacher, a cabinet member, a sex fiend, and Pittsburgh, all in two hours. The next night, I hear, she played Monty Hall, Karen Quinlan, and Elizabeth, New Jersey simultaneously. Wouldn't bet against it.
For those who undergo a heavy siege of deja vu while watching the show, the problem may be that they have seen The Proposition some time in the memorable past. The whole cast began working together as Proposition people, but left in 1974 over an employment dispute, packing in their bags the best lines, routines, and jokes. They built their own new playhouse, reworded the show name, and if they package their wares intelligently, could become formidable competition for the troupe that started improvisational theater in Boston earlier this decade.
The show is expectedly uneven (who can keep an audience rolling in the aisles for two hours?), but for every attempted joke and gesture that falls flat, the players come back with one that tickles. A series of poorly received commercials condoning racism were retrieved with a switch-around antagonism: a black dude named Jim Brown comes out and becons the T.V. audience to give these poor untalented white folks a job. Pointing to a group of uncoordinated, spastic white people in the corner of the stage, Jim Brown moans: "They can't do nothin', there. They can't boogie, they can't play hoops, shake their bootie..they can't do nothing." Even the silly "Maltese Toilet", a satire on the falcon of that lineage, was retrieved by a wonderful impersonation of Bogart by a pelvis swingin' Woody Allenesque male lead.
The spontaneous rhyming poetry of the song lyrics steal the show. Every night at the Next Move culminates in a grand rock opera, based upon three elements: one good, one bad, and one indifferent. The Pope, snow, and (predictably) sex were thrown out last week, and what ensued was this story about a nymphomaniac with hots (snow?) for the Pope. The nymph belts, from the top of her head and the bottom of her larynx:
Holding it in is just like a hex
I want to read the pages of The Joy of Sex
He's OK, Such A Looker
I Could Be Happy as the Happy Hooker.
I really want to end this song
So we could go behind the curtain and get it on.
You never have to be mad again
Cause my heart belongs to the vatican.
Realize that most of the ecstasy on hearing these lines comes from watching them being created--necessarily, something is lost in the transcription. The Titanic, before we discovered it was sinkable, likewise provoked wonder and amazement.